Connecting local responses around the world
Today is October 27, 2010, and SALT team and community members are about to hold their end-of-SALT-visit knowledge fair. I am supposed to facilitate the day, and I am a bit anxious. What format should I propose for a maximum benefit to all involved? Over the last three days, 4 teams visited each 6 communities and everyone learned a lot. How will about 60 people share so much in so many languages in so little time?
There is a last minute change of venue and we hold the fair in the hotel garden under beautiful trees. We start with the four teams reviewing all what they learned over the last three days. Everyone is contributing to lively conversations.
People only pause when the roar of a passing train covers everyone’s voice. Suddenly, a truck attracts my attention, as it enters the hotel garden, loaded with tall bamboos and with some tent material.Soon enough workers gently ask us to move and raise the bamboos to support a huge hall made of yellow fabric. “Oh my God, I think, the hotel must be organizing a wedding or some traditional Indian festival I know nothing about! Where on earth are we going to meet now?” My anxiety is reaching maximum levels. Soon a friend from Samraksha relieves my anxiety. This beautiful hall is meant for us, for our knowledge fair! The 60 people soon gather under the tent: visitors, Samraksha friends, members of the communities we had visited, and people who just came out of interest. I thought for myself: “Maybe I should have taken the advice I wrote on my board in my office: -Are you sure?”
We propose that we share how our visits deepened our understanding of SALT, using the letters of the acronym as guidelines. How do we stimulate response? I had always thought of S as asking Stimulating questions. But various contributions make me realize that I had missed another, powerful way of stimulating response: sharing one’s own story…
When the time came for sharing on L for Listen, Joao got up, and told us how he listened to a man who despite his loving care had lost his brother to AIDS. “The story somehow resonated in me, says Joao, and I told the man that I too had a sister living with AIDS. -Yes said the man, but yours is still alive. You can still
care for her; my brother is gone, and there is nothing anymore I can do for
him! - His reflection hit me, said Joao. I have worked on AIDS in my country
for more than ten years, but what did I do for my sister? Just before I went
for this trip, she asked me to buy a hair dryer for the salon she wants to
open. And what did I do? I spent all my money buying stuff for myself! So I called my sister, and asked for forgiveness. She told me that she always knew that I would come to her, because, she said, you are a good man!” Joao ends his story and goes back in tears to his seat. The silence is deep. People reflect, some are crying. I cannot read thoughts, but I know that many of us are thinking about their own family, as Joao’s story had in turn resonated with our own.
After leaving some time for people including me to recover, I said: “There is no need to explore further the L, and the T for Transform and Transfer. Joao, your
story tells it all: you listened deeply, the story transformed you, and you
transferred the experience into your own context!” Lawan added: “L does not
only stand for Listen, it also stands for Love!” At the end of the meeting, we
all could feel how we had come closer together.
Two days later, Sanghamitra tells me that Joao’s story made her call her mother. “It is Diwali next week, our biggest holiday in India. Usually, I don’t fly to Delhi to join my mother and our family for Diwali. I always think that I am too busy! But I told her that this time, I would come. My mother was surprised and asked me: why are you coming? I am doing well, there is no need for you to come! I responded: Wouldn’t it be great if we met when we both were doing well?” During the weekend following the SALT visit, I travelled with Sanghamitra through the beautiful Northern Karnataka and met communities and Samraksha staff. Those who had taken part in the SALT meeting told the power of appreciating strength and how Joao’s and others’ stories had resonated with their own. As in a chain reaction, others in turn said: “I will try this at home”.
We all share the dream that AIDS Competence spread faster than the virus. During the SALT visit and during the following weekend, I saw the dream come through. As communities inspire us, we can become the conduits for this inspiration to touch others. This chain reaction will have no end, if we let the inspiration flow.
This knowledge fair made it clear that SALT transforms work and life into a
spiritual experience. As the chair of the Constellation, I see it now as my
main duty to keep the inspiration flow. I was not prepared for it, but that
seems to be the essence of my humbling responsibility. With the help of all of
you, we can be part of the global movement that will take the world to a new
level of humanity and happiness.