This past Wednesday evening I attended a public talk at the Simon Fraser University Centre for Dialogue in downtown Vancouver. The guest speaker was Dave Meslin, a Torontonian who is well known through his TED Talk for his innovative approach to citizen engagement. The thrust of his talk dealt with how to mobilize citizens to take small, effective actions to humanize their neighborhood, the civilize their city, and to engaged positively with municipal government. Smart, witty and encouraging he challenged the approximately 200 attendees to engaged the ‘fourth wall’, which is the imaginary barrier separating citizens from local politics.
I was impressed with the number of younger people, those under forty, in attendance. I sensed that they were listening deeply; chewing over what Meslin was saying and weighing it against their own experiences of engaging the city. I was also impressed with the caliber of the questions and discourse that followed the formal talk. The evening left me feeling hopeful and that is a good thing for we all need a moments that rekindle our hope.
But, even more than the talk itself and the ensuing discourse, what I found particularly inspiring was that an elderly couple, Bruce and Lis Welch, sponsored this free pubic talk. They were in attendance and a warm and well-deserved applause was offered for their contribution. Later, on my way home, walking down Cordova Street toward the Waterfront Station, I happened to meet the Welch’s. We chatted ever so briefly and then I thanked them for sponsoring the event. I do not know much about this couple, but they struck me as fine people who are simply seeking to give back to the community of Vancouver.
The whole evening was a blessing. In a world such as ours, where we are inundated daily with suffering, war, and injustice via the mainstream media, it is good to have experiences where ‘good breaks out’. That was the sense I had of the evening of dialogue: that people, motivated by a common desire to create more civil local communities, could work together to create a better world and do so by focusing on small, meaningful actions in their own locale. The blessing of the evening was to be reminded of the many, many good people who are trying work for the common good of all.
In today’s scripture reading it is the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes that is held out for consideration. In that miracle, Jesus blessed five fish and two loaves of bread and with the help of his followers was able to feed five thousand people. I can’t but help to make the connection between this miracle and the blessings of Wednesday evening. It seems to me the sponsorship of Bruce and Lis Welch was a seed blessing that fed many people with hope last Wednesday evening. I suspect that from this public dialogue many good things will spring forth as a result. It seems to me that the blessing of bread and the feeding of thousands continue in our own time and this is a sign of hope.