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Gathering for GratitudeOctober 30, 2015
Global Mentorship Canada 2015
When Betsy Lydle Smith heard that Dan and I were coming to North America for three months, she had an idea. She wondered, could a Mentorship Conference be pulled together and was there a venue available at short notice? Not finding one near her home in Washington State, she called on the Board of Virtues Project International Association, and within days, the indomitable Donna Wheatcroft had secured the perfect spot on the Bow River - FCJ, a beautiful island of quiet on the outskirts of Calgary, Alberta - a modest, affordable, nurturing place, ideal for the conference.
Facilitators quickly made plans, coming from the US, Canada, Honduras, Argentina, Singapore, Finland, and Japan.
The Sacred Opening Friday morning began perfectly with First Nations first - a prayer by SuzA Tsetso from Yellowknife. The sacred opening to honor the spirit continued with a reverent, contemplative walk, some of us with bare feet, through a grass labyrinth by the river. Moving in silence, at a graceful pace, each approached the centre, chose a Virtues Reflection Card from a basket, reflected on how it spoke to us, and replaced it, moving outward holding a seed of possibility.
The diligent team who put the conference program together so quickly included Betsy Lydle Smith of Bainbridge Island Washington, Betty Doherty of Victoria BC, Donna Wheatcroft of Calgary, Alberta, Christine Ayling of Grand Prairie, Alberta, Val Hilliker of Rimbey, Alberta, John Howden of Canmore, Alberta, and Cathy Burns, of St. Petersburg, Florida
An inclusive approach was used, giving every person an opportunity to share how they are applying virtues in life and in work, and large paper hearts were spread around the room for teams to fill with ideas for presentations. We were blessed by the services of our treasured techie and webmaster, Steve Snyder of Montana and John Howden of Alberta, who recorded and photographed the entire conference, and will make sessions available for viewing.
Virtues in the arts were among the highlights of the conference. Musicians sang original virtues compositions, we heard a gorgeous operatic aria offered by a young woman from Japan, virtues action songs for all ages, and simple chants such as Donna Nobis Pacem, calling us back to the circle. I was touched by a graceful traditional Japanese fan dance performed to a song deeply meaningful to me - Disney's "When You Wish Upon a Star", my special song with brother John Kavelin, a Disney Imagineer before he became a founder of The Virtues Project. We watched a stirring one woman drama with masks on the fragile journey of self-esteem. We learned about virtues sharing circles with youth, how virtues are transforming school culture, and the creation of a virtues daycare in Finland which multiplied there and is now underway in China. VPIA Board Member, Val Hilliker was masterful as always with her virtues puppets, bringing us to laughter and tears.
We heard a scientist, as hilarious as a stand-up comedian, and a powerful, courageously revealing presentation by a young woman on the Cassandra Syndrome and how The Virtues Project brought her transformation and health recovery after severe abuse. One of the Japanese facilitators showed us how she works with corporations in improving communication, radiating love to them and using their "show and grow virtues". We watched a video of children so steeped in a school culture of virtues in Singapore that they had developed deep discernment about the strength and growth virtues in themselves and their classes. We all fell in love with a sweaty seven year old boy just off the playground, with no preparation, who said he needed to "strengthen integrity so I won't talk when the teacher is talking."
We did Virtues exercises and learned of healing tools. Malcolm Fast, a chartered accountant from Edmonton, Alberta, told two powerful stories of his use of companioning to diffuse angry reactions in a corporate setting. Several members of the Board of VPIA led by Chair Valerie Hess presented their vision for the next generation of growth for The Virtues Project, with humility as well as idealism.
Dan spoke on the power of intention in service, and I spoke on the 5 sister Virtues of Thankfulness, Gratitude, Appreciation, Contentment and Grace as they relate to the Five Strategies, and later led a workshop component in virtues-based Healing Circles.
A highlight of the conference was the chanting together of a prayer introduced by Kimiko Schwerin of Japan for her beloved 12 year old granddaughter, Hana (Flower) Perle, who died a few weeks ago in a tragic accident.
The creativity and diversity of the presentations revealing such devotion to the virtues and the Project itself was stunning. Everyone went home with an envelope full virtues acknowledgments, a heart full of gratitude and a mind full of fresh ideas. SuzA led us in a First Nations traditional dance and chant, and then, in the final gratitude circle, Dan said, "We built the foundation. You are building the palace of virtues." Dan and I left with our hearts overflowing -- with trust in this generation of virtues enthusiasts and advocates to help The Virtues Project go viral!