On Finding Inspiration in Place

Posted on behalf of Abbie Goldberg, Video Coordinator for Team North Shore

When I asked the incomparably visionary Henry Allen ‘why Gloucester’ I was expecting the usual answers: vibrant culture, peaceful community, beautiful ocean, but instead he said he visited years ago and before he got off the train he knew he was home. It took him years to return, but he’s now a pillar of the community (which is indeed vibrant, peaceful and beautiful) and brings people of all ages together into important dialogs through political, folklore and Youth Theater.

A beautiful brunch spread at Shari's lovely cottage.

A beautiful brunch spread at Shari’s lovely cottage.

When I met Shari at a public narrative training and asked her to tell her story, she smiled and without hesitation shared of how this “funky little cottage” in Newburyport, MA popped up in her email and she knew it was hers immediately. She visited, bought it on the spot and has since been dedicated to sharing the beauty of the great marsh with a generation of students and together they are working to protect and honor it in any way they can.

At dinner in Marblehead, Reverend Clyde discussed why he was drawn to faith and spiritual work. He said he’d had an experience that shook him and he wanted to do what he could to make change. He saw religious groups as strong, committed communities able to organize and work to alleviate suffering. He grapples with faith and grapples with the role of a faith community—their responsibility to set a moral standard and remain engaged with their values and how those values relate to religion in this day and age.

The beach is as good a place as any to listen for your calling.

The beach is as good a place as any to listen for your calling.

I’ve been thinking about calling. I’ve been thinking about this idea of connection to place one place you can be where you will feel fulfilled and whole while contributing to growth and change. I don’t think I believe in something like “fate” or “destiny”, that we have one place or one role or anything particularly static to offer, but what I’ve found in talking to communities this summer is that sometimes people know, in ways that can’t be understood with logic or reason, how it is they can engage their skills to enact positive change and are drawn to the places they’ll be most able to do that. Which is not to say this is a passive process. Shari spent a lot of time seeking out organizations to volunteer with and Henry spent years just observing the community figuring out what they loved, the ways they were strong, and what they still needed, where the gaps were. Maybe it’s not “calling” exactly, but from what I’ve seen it is a very strong commitment to show up and to listen.

Because there is still this question of ‘where do we start!?’ These issues are huge and there are so, so many of them, but for many of us in Massachusetts (especially at elite colleges), we are not really the ones climate change will affect first or in the worst ways. So how do we help in ways that are genuine, honest and effective? It’s something I’m definitely not done grappling with (nor do I anticipate I ever will be) but it’s been really inspiring to watch our community partners this summer. Each of the three I named and so many others have found communities that they feel a deep, strong connection to and then have spent a long time listening to those communities and supporting them through specific skills and empowerment. I don’t think I’ve found my calling. I know I must be engaged in climate justice work, but I’m still figuring out what that means for me. What I do know is that it will take time and patience and unrelenting commitment to connection. For now I will continue listening and strive to be open to the unexpected.

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