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On leaving my Okanagan home

April 13, 2011

As I have often said, nothing defines my life so much as change.   One of the most momentous changes is unfolding as the curtain comes down on the present act of my life and the stage is being set for another.  I sit writing in my home, but it is no longer really my home.  Most of the props from the last scene are gone.   The rooms are bare.  They sound hollow.  The life has gone out of them.

For the most part the Okanagan has been good to me.  I relocated here expecting to find a new life and I did, albeit not the one I had anticipated.  But the life I did find has made it possible for me to segue to the chapter upon which I am now embarking.   The life I envisaged upon my arrival would not have.

My career experience here has been checkered.  I came to the Okanagan fully expecting to continue nursing, but to my chagrin I found conditions very different.  Whereas in Manitoba I had been routinely afforded opportunities to practice to the limits of my capability, to stretch myself, and to acquire skills beyond my formal training, here I found I was relegated to a role I found so intolerably demeaning that I chose to abandon nursing and seek something more agreeable.  After a few false starts—as first aid attendant with seismic crews in northern BC and Alberta and on the green chain in a sawmill (I always enjoy trying something really different)—I reverted to a past occupation with a bit of a twist, caring for adults with developmental disabilities.  It has been rewarding at times, but with repeated cuts to government funding, opportunities to do much that is really meaningful have all but evaporated.  Still I have been privileged to have shared the work with some exceptional people who care profoundly about those to whom they minister.

I was amazed and delighted to discover that in this area it is acceptable to discuss faith publicly, even on the editorial page of the local paper.  Though certainly not everyone here is part of a church, in my experience participation is rarely denigrated.  The church I initially attended here was large, polished and well attended.  Although I found after a time that it was no longer a good fit for me, I still treasure its men’s group and choose whenever possible to spend my Thursday evenings with the guys.  Over the years we delved deeply into some very weighty issues and indulged in more than a few impassioned discussions.  When iron sharpens iron, sparks fly.

After I moved to Armstrong, the Lord led me to a quaint little church where His people unreservedly welcomed me into their fold with open arms and threw wide their doors in invitation to become very much one of them.   Our minister, eminently approachable and delightfully effervescent, quickly became a dear friend.  My newfound church’s bible study has been an interesting counterpoint to my men’s group.  Here I am a proverbial thorn amongst the roses, one of only two men in a coterie of women.  Yet in the warmth of this fellowship I found a comfortable place to speak my heart without fear of judgment.   The group understands that, as Mother Teresa said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” I have felt very loved at Zion.

I was also blessed to be invited to be part of a small group of men who meet for an early breakfast once a week to spend a couple of hours in intimate conversation about our spiritual journeys.  These very special men have been a source of great encouragement.  Their wisdom and audaciousness has inspired me to reach further, to dig deeper, to question the unquestionable, to think the unthinkable.  In the rabbinic tradition they have become my haverim, my covenant community who together seek to strengthen our understanding of God.

In the fires of truth and tears I have forged some deep relationships with some remarkable people.  Like good books these special people are worlds unto themselves; as we journeyed together I have very much enjoyed immersing myself in their pages and opening mine to them.  I know with some this will continue; they will join the ranks of a special group from whom I am separated by geography, but with whom I can from time to time effortlessly pick up the threads and weave a bit more into the tapestry of our friendship.  Others may fade into memory, but as with the Cheshire Cat their smiles will remain.

A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart,

and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.

In this enchanting valley I have been blessed with beautiful homes with stunning views.  I have managed to gather around me a great many things that have given me great pleasure.  Now my worldly goods must fit into two checked bags and a carry on.   But there is no limit to the treasures I can carry in my heart.

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