Lesley is a Spirit Mover Dancer, a quilter, a needlepoint artist, a
painter – a burst of creative energy. This short story is about
discovering and celebrating Lesley’s gifts – which were of course
there all along – but we hadn’t celebrated them. A PATH for Lesley
began by inviting a group of women to think with her. The world has
begun to shift. Lesley is celebrating as are the many people who’s
lives are enriched by her gifts.
Lesley and her family were struggling with the question of ‘what
next’. With a small grant from the Ontario Ministry of Community
and Social Service, they engaged PLAN Toronto to provide
independent planning support.
In preparation for the ‘planning’
meeting, Sue Beayni from PLAN Toronto met with Lesley and her
mother. They thought about who Lesley would invite to a planning
evening. Her list was substantial, but even they wondered who would
actually come. There was an ‘expectation’ that Lesley would be shy,
retiring, and have few thoughts about her future. On March 21, in a
Church Hall, fifteen people materialized to listen and support an
exploration of Lesley’s Path to the future. Facilitators, Jack
Pearpoint & Lynda Kahn, began by asking the group to recall
stories of ‘when Lesley was at her best’. An explosion of vibrant
memories filled a poster with rich imagery of past experiences that
created a foundation for a dynamic future.
When asked to think about her future, Lesley shocked everyone, took
over the pens and pastels and began to draw. Bolts of colourful
energy revealed hidden passions as a quilter who does needlepoint.
With that gift revealed and welcomed, Lesley took a bigger risk and
explained her dream of spending time in the convent – and becoming
an Associate of the Sisters of St. John the Divine. She also
mentioned living on her own – but not just yet. Chairs squeaked as
three women present revealed to Lesley and each other that they had
already begun that spiritual journey as ‘Associates’. Another
revealed that she also wanted to explore a deeper connection with
her church. In the magic of the moment, the ‘impossible’ task of
arranging transportation and support for a weekend visit to the
convent became an opportunity for two people (too shy to go alone)
– to partner and explore the journey together.
With the wisdom in the room, the ‘application procedure’ to be an
’Associate’ shifted from a complex barrier, to “I’ll write a letter
to the Bishop”.
And then there was the quilting… Lesley
revealed not only a passion – but also considerable talent in
hooking rugs and needlepoint. Another circle member revealed her
love of quilting – but she was reluctant to join a group and
uncomfortable doing it alone. She asked if Lesley would come to her
place so they could quilt together – and Lesley could be her tutor.
Lesley didn’t need any coaching to sign up. Then another Circle
member asked if she too could join the emerging quilting bee. And
so, as Lesley explored her dreams for the future, gifts in the
community suddenly emerged in a win-win-win combination that none
of us could have imagined or predicted. These ‘connections’ were
not about charity or pity; they are mutually engaging interests and
commitments – between citizens that share a passion about quilting
– or a million other possibilities.
Since then, Lesley the craft maven, offered and has already been to
the Church (on her own) to assist making Palm Crosses for the
Easter celebrations. It was always ‘possible’ – but it just never
happened until we revealed her gifts and talents and she had the
courage to invite people into her circle.
And…the preliminary negotiations to participate in an exciting Arts
& Crafts program at L’Arche (which was assumed to be
impossible) have already begun, and the door has been opened. It is
possible – when we have the courage to create a safe space to say
our dreams out loud in the presence of friends who are willing to
listen in – and then ‘sign up’ for the journey.
Another small miracle. Lesley is a Spirit Mover Dancer. A
significant obstacle to her participation had always been
transportation arrangements. Following the planning meeting, for
the first time, Margaret (from the church) drove Lesley to her
Spirit Mover performance in Markham.
In addition, Susan, an Anglican priest who met Lesley when she was
a Spirit Mover, has requested a meeting with the Reverend Mother of
the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine and has invited the Associate
Sister to attend the next planning meeting.
This opportunity is emerging in part because of an emergent policy
of ‘person-directed planning’ in Ontario. It is hoped this will be
available to all individuals and families – through ‘independent’
(unencumbered) facilitators; ‘arms length’ creative options being
developed by some providers, and through planning services provided
by many existing support agencies. It is a hopeful beginning that
moves in the direction of individuals and families being in charge,
making decisions about what they want, and who they choose to
employ to assist them on these journeys.
This short story is about what can happen with good planning that
engages the gifts of an individual and the capacity of the
And the journey continues. Lesley’s
weeks now look quite different. One day she is volunteering in the
Children's Aid offices (she was doing this before the PATH); one
day folding laundry at a senior's home (a new work placement which
she loves); one day with Spirit Movers; occasionally volunteering
at the church with the Spanish speaking ladies, folding bulletins
etc. Lesley is now taking a Spanish class as well. She has applied
to take part in a dance/art/drama course one day a week which is
organized by L'Arche Toronto. She wants to develop her skills with
the arts and wants to deepen her relationship with L'Arche since
many of her friends are there. The convent relationship is
developing nicely (slowly but surely), and she now has backup
alternatives for transportation to church and other activities.
Leslie is now a contributing citizen who lights up people’s lives.
She is happier. Her mother is relieved. The key is the courage to
risk making a plan – and the follow through with the Circle
meetings to keep the ‘team’ that was created focused and on track.
Sue Beayni makes sure meetings happen every couple of months. It is
not rocket science – but it is intentional work. There are no
guarantees – but we do know that when we invite people to
participate – few say no and celebrating gifts is a better way to
spend our days. Try it.
- Jack Pearpoint
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