Making a difference one sphere of influence at a time

Musings by Chris and Photos by Jim and Others

We all have our own sphere of influence. For some it resides in our own apartment block; at a workplace setting; within a small island community; cross borders and towns and cities; but ultimately within our individual hearts.

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There is a tendency to believe in our own self-importance. Social media has the ability to make each one of us feel overly connected, overly viewed and responded to, and overly crucial to each cyclical revolution of each post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter. And then the magical happens. Seemingly out of nowhere a connection is made, an event attended, a gift received, a vision manifested, and we truly feel heard and empowered and connected.

I’m learning more and more that if I step out of the way, if I stop planning and allow the moments to flow, opportunity knocks and the door to my heart opens with abundance. The more open I am, the more protected I am. If I remain open to possibilities then anything is possible. Healing thrives in an alkaline environment – one that is unfettered and balanced along a continuum of faith, trust, joy, patience, acceptance, and love.

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Sharing my vulnerability during my time of treatment and recovery has bestowed so many gifts upon me. To bring it back to a sphere of influence, you never know who is touched by your story. Having been a resident of Salt Spring Island for eight years definitely had an impact on a small community of residents who lived in the same townhouse complex we did for the last two years of our time on this island of 10,000. They requested an ‘Island Comfort Quilt’ for me while undergoing treatment for my cancer. This is something that can be requested for residents of the island, and is produced by a group of devoted passionate and compassionate volunteers. Since we no longer live there, they obviously made an earnest request on my behalf. I received the most beautifully handcrafted quilt that blankets me during my morning mediation time. I always shed a silent tear as I read the following, inscribed on the quilt:

“We believe that friends are quiet angels who lift us up when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly. We hope this quilt brings you warmth and comfort while your wings remember.”

 

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Our daughter, Kate Nash, has a sphere of influence mentoring young high school women who in turn mentor grade 8 middle school females. The title Pass It On, aptly describes the intent of the program. Kate passes on her intuitively respectful perspectives about being a woman in society while the young women share their angsts and joys about being a female teenager. Their mode of informational exchange takes place in a circle of safety and trust and honesty and respect. Women from the community visit from time to time to make connections with the younger females, to share their stories and to broaden the circle of support within the community of Salt Spring Island. All this is a backdrop to the essential component of the program – young high school women mentoring grade 8 females from the middle school creating bonds and friendships to last a lifetime, or at least until they transition into the high school the following year. And so the sphere of influence continues.

 

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Each year, Kate and the Pass It On mentors produce an evening of entertainment which includes young females from the high school, women performers from the island community, and the occasional headliner performer from Vancouver. Sparkfest does exactly that. It sparks broader connections within the community. It celebrates the beauty and bounty of courageous, strong, articulate, creative women who live in this island community. And it strengthens the on going bonds of collaboration among all within the community of Salt Spring Island.

This year during Sparkfest Kate asked all mentors to stand up, all mentees to stand up, and any woman who has been connected to the program in some large or small way to stand up. The room of over 130 attendees was overwhelmingly on its feet. To look around and know that if you were to see one of these people in the local café or library or farmer’s market you could walk up to them and already have a connection with them – a circle of safety and respect and understanding – is reassuring and affirming. Salt Spring Women Opposed to Violence and Abuse (SWOVA) find funding for this program every year. Their sphere of influence reaches beyond the confines of the island, having been recognized by the United Nations and endorsed by UNICEF. For Kate this little program that could has turned into a viable established program that is. In large part it is because of Kate’s passion and belief in intergenerational connectedness and community.

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Our son, JP Maurice, is a musician, songwriter, and producer. It is his passion that fuels a seemingly wider sphere of influence beyond the confines of just an island or a city or a province or even a country. His sphere of influence is international. And yet for all his travels and connections abroad he barely makes enough money to support himself. Such is the music industry today – access to music is simply a free download away.

Music sets the tone for visual stories such as the mockumentary – Breaking Up Broken Down of which JP was a creative contributor along with Benjamin Caldwell and Eric Larocque – filmed in Europe by Green Couch Productions in the fall of 2013. Musicians are seeking new and clever ways to tell their stories, draw in a wider audience of listeners and viewers through social media, and hopefully influence a wider circle of potential patrons. Not that playing and producing music is all about making it big, but it is about making a living doing what you love and for which you have some skill and talent.

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Jean-Paul has been living this gig for 20 years and at the age of 30 has become a veteran of near big-time record deals, a winner of modest monetary contests, and broadband publicity and promises. He’s the musician everyone loves to listen to, be produced by, to play with, and to sing his songs, but rarely does anyone want to pay the price. How do you put a price on what you love without alienating your sphere of influence? There is something deeper and richer that keeps our passionately musical son alive, thriving within his own personal depths of knowing and believing.

“A strange metaphysical truth: Prosperity is never conditional upon the state of your bank account, but upon your state of mind. Without a feeling of expansion and contentment, even the blessings from the best of planetary transits won’t matter, since abundance is something to be, not seek or await.” Tosha Silver

Abundance is definitely what I witnessed during a brief conversation with Tim Van Horn of the Canadian Mosaic Project.

“Tim’s vision has always been to create innovative visual documents that educate, enlighten, and pay homage to the beauty and wonderment of life itself. The fact that Canada is such a culturally diverse country inspires Tim.”

Tim’s aim by 2017, when Canada is 150 years old, is to have a visual montage of Canada that is interactive and enlivening. He will visit as many communities within all the provinces and territories as possible, meeting people, photographing people, interviewing people, videoing people all while traveling in his decorated motorhome. It is festooned with photos of people from coast to coast to coast emblazoned in red and white to capture our Canadian flag. And Tim does all this through the goodwill of Canadians. He has no government or corporate sponsorship. As Tim clearly states he couldn’t be taking all these photos and then suddenly smack a corporate logo underneath the photo. People have trusted that their image is purely a representation of a moment in time and their place within Canada’s vision.

Tim has been living the Canadian Mosaic Project for six years and he has another two to go. He envisions touch screens on the outside of his motorhome so people can play videos, scroll through photos, and have a conversation with other Canadians. He is redefining all that we are simply by illuminating our hearts through pictures. I scrolled through the Salt Spring Island and Victoria photos on his website hoping to see the ones he took of my friend and me, on Victoria Day weekend. They aren’t posted yet, but I did recognize faces and felt the blush of familiarity – interconnected. We are all one thriving mass of humanity, making a go of it on this planet, and within Tim’s vision, within Canada. We are a fine looking group of people, of which I am proud to say I am but one.

I’m nearing the half way mark later this week of my radiation treatments. In truth, it has become all about me. I struggle to eat and drink as the side effects are now encroaching upon the sensitive tissues within my mouth. Everything I do takes a little bit longer to accomplish. Just managing to make it through each day keeping up with my daily routines with my usual fervour is taxing at the best of times. I’m learning to be gentler and to celebrate the moment. My sphere of influence is retreating of late and while I have huge expectations for myself, maintaining my life within a circle of two is bounty enough. I’m slowly learning to hold on less while welcoming the opening up of space to explore the person I am now.

 

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Ultimately, when you have an impact that positively influences others, that allows you to live with integrity, and that focuses on vision, you make life a little richer for all; all the while remembering to start first with you.

“Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” – Lao Tzu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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