| The International
Child and Youth
My dear friends …We are gathered together
I never liked funerals when I was young. Perhaps it was something I was sheltered from in those years. I never saw a corpse until as a youth I accidentally delivered a take-out order of spaghetti to the wrong room at the old Curry’s Funeral Home on George St. I was anything but comfortable as I made my way to the office to deliver the order to a large man dressed in black. I noticed my little feet moving quite quick as I left the building.
Now weddings were a different thing. I liked them when I was young and I still like them now that I am, let’s say, middle aged. There is so much happiness and it is nice to be part of that happiness as people celebrate together. It seems quite easy to gather together and share in the joy and offer best wishes to a couple who are beginning a journey together.
I have changed my view about funerals. The experience of attending funerals has taught me much about people gathering together. Despite the difficulty in going and worrying about what to say, you find that your compassion demonstrated by you being present and whatever words you choose are a comfort and support for the family who have suffered a loss and are grieving. You draw from that experience an energy of the soul which makes you feel very human. It seems that gathering together in times of hardship is more meaningful than on happier occasions.
I live on an island called Cape Breton located on the east coast of Canada. We are privileged to live in a rich country. Cape Breton is a beautiful island filled with friendly people who over the years have worked hard to support their families. There is a strong sense of community. Having not travelled far, perhaps this is true of many communities, and we all share this spirit.
Most if not all “Capers” (as we are called) have in our family either a miner, steelworker, fisherman , or farmer. All these professions have a proud history. They have all at different points in time experienced serious problems. Change has occurred. However the people have always gathered together to support, comfort, help, and work towards positive solutions. There was always a “critical mass” that took leadership roles in bringing people together. I believe the key was “together”. I suspect if they had just gathered without commitment to each other there would have been little sense of togetherness. A feeling of hopelessness and isolation would have set in and what remained would have been an ‘every man for himself’ attitude. Our community would have stagnated and fragmented. I would think that every community would have examples of people gathering together and drawing strength from each other.
This phenomenon of “gathering together” has an importance in youth work. I think that programs where youth workers gather together are laying part of the foundation for a healthy program so necessary to help youth. Certainly at times we need to seriously question our commitment to each other. If we lose our caring and compassion for each other, then I think that all that is left is isolation and exhaustion and an inability to show compassion. If we desire to live with compassion for others, then it must touch our lives at every moment.
There are many trying and tiring times in residential care for all staff associated with a program. This is why I believe it is essential that we use opportunities presented within programs to energize our spirits. One way to achieve this is by giving support, encouragement, and appreciation to others. It seems to me that especially in times of need and hardship, the giving of the gift is the receiving of the gift.