I had dinner in the YMCA dining room with Sarah. A mature black woman from Joburg South Africa. Was joined a little later by Della also mature and from the same city. They both are nurses, working over here to raise money for their families back home. Sarah had so much depth. Even our first chat was of depth and I recognized a deep person as we chatted freely. There was a freshness behind the hardworking face. She wants to save to be able to afford a business start up on her return. Not nursing as I would have suspected, but housing. She wants to get into housing when she returns. Before she moved away to work her permanent night shift at the local hospital - we shared a lot.
Sarah was talking about Joburg and the community she lived in. I told her about the YMCA there and she knew of it in two places. She had also heard of Caesar Molabatsi who was the President of the South African YMCA, but now has been elected as President of the World Alliance of YMCA's. A hot preacher that he is. We had him often at Greenbelt during the dark days of apartheid. We talked about Hillbrow, the place Mickaela O'Sullivan worked when she was third year Trainee here. How she worked at the YMCA with homeless children in that community. Sarah said she would never go there. It is too rough she explained. Yet the YMCA was there doing it. Mickaela was there doing it. The need is there and someones got to do it!
Was reflecting this morning as I woke before the bell. These early morning thoughts of all things YMCA. They swirl in and out of the subconscious mind as I pull the duvet over me to keep away the coldness of early morning.I was thinking how she knew Felix, a young black lad in the hostel who comes from Canning Town, in East London, my old rough patch. I was there 10 years before I came to Romford. He came from Zimbabwe with his parents when he was 14. We had talked about the shock it was to shift cultures at such an impressive age. He had recently returned to his native land for the first time and was roughed up by the locals because he was different. Different accent and dress. Not streetwise, certainly in that street. Yet his East London street is one of the toughest in London town.
Felix is named after his Grandad and wants to study business and finance. His aspirations are to follow his parents in their business in Canning Town. It is an African Night Club. It was news to me about such a place, but I have been away from the patch for nearly 18 years!
Was reflecting that the likes of Sarah have a wonderful influence on Felix and others without trying. Mother figures who relate to them as adults. Mature people who have a life experience to match theirs. See how deep it is? 'Community' working together to bring wholeness, a true YMCA mission objective. We are striving to meet the needs of individuals, but the experience of 'community' is touching the lives of individuals through community.
I was thinking how good it is to have a diversity of cultures. Mr Singh who joined us for dinner with all his world travels and cultural experience. The learning for us as we sit in the YMCA Dining Room. As the world gets smaller and bombs are placed at other people's feet because they are different. This world is beautiful but not if you have a bomb go off in your night club. Not if you are stabbed because your difference is the colour of your skin. Not if you believe in God who has a different name and loves only 'me and mine' The 'me' needs to become 'we' world-wide.
So my dinner has given way to a sleepless a.m., but has taken me a step, another, to human development. Community. Cultural awareness. Diversity. Faith. Communication and the joy of looking into a persons face and seeing their soul. So generous. So much love in there. So much.
I don't often write emails to people I don't know, but I wanted to give you encouragement and a thank you for your L5 session on Monday evening at Greenbelt.
I think that maybe you don't get to hear the small stories and see all the little things that happen when you do shorter workshops. & maybe you don't get as many thank yous as people intend or get to know how much you & your words are appreciated.
& I get the feeling that you do need a thank you & some encouragement especially after this Greenbelt, so I don't think you'll think I'm crazy for writing to someone I don't know.
I'm writing this whilst on a night shift in a supported living unit (what I do when not stewarding at Greenbelt). It's 4am so I'm not as awake and coherent as I'd like to be, but I hope you can follow.
I was one of the venues stewards at the workshop, standing on the fire escape at the back of the tent: perfect for people watching (which is also why I love being a venue steward. People are wonderful,and Greenbelt has so many different types of people to watch, to meet.)
Here's what I saw from my fire escape.
I saw a man, so painfully shy that he could not tell me his name or look me in the eye at the start of the session, let alone tell us what made him feel vulnerable (in words, although it was painfully obvious) come out of himself enough to do the group work.
I saw him look a stranger in the eyes, and smile - a true smile from his heart. I had been prepared to move out the way of the door, and let him escape. I didn't plan on sending him out the 'correct' exit when he chose to leave. I had already decided that it would be inhuman to do that.That's how certain I was he'd leave.
He stayed until the end.
I saw another man, (in the group that tried to include me as much as possible) go from clearly not wanting to communicate, reserved, resenting the group work and the contact with strangers to sitting listening fully with compassion and concern to the woman who told him of her tough time. At the end they sat and talked, and he put his barriers down to her, to me. He walked out the tent looking somehow lighter.
I saw the woman facing her fear and telling him the thing that maybe she hadn't told anyone yet. They looked the most unlikely pair to communicate well. I saw her relief at his acceptance. She was nervous and talking a lot, to me to the two others in her group. Laughing over the awkward bits, trying to cover up the uncomfortableness. I saw her face and the realisation and new self knowledge that came when you explained why you asked people not to talk, and that laughter was often used as a cover up. She understood.
I think she understood a lot about herself in that moment and the way she communicates. I think she learnt how to be more real, and not to cover over the cracks. She was quieter after that, in a good way.
I watched another young woman in a group near me go from sitting curled in on herself, one arm in a barrier to talking openly with her group, sitting up straight opening herself up physically during the exercises. She seemed to gain confidence in one hour.
I watched people's reactions to each other change and grow and the expressions as something you said /the exercises taught us new things, showed another way of communicating. The difference between level 3/4 and 5.
I watched as those who seemed too scared to speak into the microphone did, and as they did they told the truth. watched people anxious and clearly dreading speaking before you got to them, open up and tell the truth, and look proud of themselves afterwards for doing it.
I watched you show people that you understood the unspoken emotions, when you carried on talking but with a hand on someone's shoulder. Simple and oh so powerful.
I watched the relief and thankfulness on their faces, that you had understood and taken the time to show them empathy.
I watched the gratefulness on people's faces when you talked about your greenbelt and how this year it was not-so-good for you, and how you had decided to say that instead of the expected clichéd answers.
That Greenbelt itself can be wonderful, but our experience of it, our personal Greenbelts sometimes can not be. If people had speech bubbles, some of them would have said 'now I can be real too.' or 'I am not alone.'
I watched a group of friends doing the exercises together seem to connect in a deeper way than before, the new way they looked at each other and the way they stayed talking afterwards. Truy present to each other,really listening. I talked to them a little afterwards, they told me they felt that they could go and carry on being honest in that way with each other, when none had the courage to do so before. That they were so glad they came to the workshop.
I watched groups who had been reluctant to speak to each other at the start of the workshop stay talking to each other at the end, unwilling to stop, to leave.
I watched how you took the time to be with people after you finished speaking,and how comfortable they felt approaching you and talking. In some other talks, people approach speakers with a little awkwardness and trepidation- trying to impress or wondering if the speaker will take the time to talk to them. People approached you differently, they had confidence that they were going to be accepted and listened to. That is a true gift.
At the time of your workshop I was not a regular happy shiny venues steward. My cheese had fallen right off my cracker with my two other team mates just before your talk, and I was glad I was on the fire escape - less chance of having to talk to anyone (steward or Greenbelter), less chance of snapping at anyone again. Your workshop was just where I needed to be.
Before I came on shift that evening, a kindred spirit had asked me how I was feeling. He does things like that sometimes, in random places (like half way across the walkway, for no obvious reason.) I had tried to find out how I was feeling, and discovered I didn't really know. He wasn't happy with that, being used to having honest answers from me and being one of those persistent types, and I'd gone on shift wondering why it was such a hard question. I was trying to figure that out, and understand why I was being unreasonable with my team. My friend had left me with another question 'how long have you not known how you feel?' and in your talk I realised that I felt numb and numbness was a sort of feeling. I realised I had felt mainly numb for a long time.
I hadn't understood really how it was affecting me. I went numb all of a sudden, when a good friend (who was also a priest) was murdered. When I was told, my legs gave way, at exactly the same something in my soul did too. I lost the ability to pray, to worship. To write, to play music. I lost the ability to be with people. I thought my faith in God had been shaken, when I realised it hadn't but still couldn't/can't pray, I didn't understand why. If I didn't doubt God, if I still understood his love, why was worship cold, why couldn't I pray, or stand people praying with me? I did have level 4/5 conversations with people – with my very closest friends but it was hard all of a sudden. & I never spoke about the murder or about the things after it, the funeral the media, the anger and unforgiveness in the church, the court case.
&gradually I stopped feeling other things too, until something happened that made me explode or I had too much to drink.
It wasn't until your workshop I understood that I had stopped communicating with myself, and the wall I felt between me and God was a communication problem, I simply went numb and stopped communicating at level 5 most of the time (&all the time with God.) Then I understood why I had been struggling in relationships, in helping people, in feeling more short tempered than ever before.
I understood why I couldn't answer my friend whenever he asked me how I was feeling. I understood why I haven't been able to write (diaries/letters/blogs) and why I can't play music with passion. You can't play the piano and not feel. It's been nearly three years since I felt properly.
&gradually, feeling is coming back. I'm getting a case of spiritual pins and needles (&in working with vulnerable adults and children with behavioural difficulties I need to know how I'm feeling, to be real and not let my cheese fall off my cracker.)
I know you were restless at Greenbelt, and not doing the youth/urban talks you live to do. You had only that one talk this year. I saw on your blog it frustrated you. But perhaps it had to happen that way,so you could be real with some of the people there in the way they needed.
Perhaps you simply needed to slow down this Greenbelt? To have space to think about your restlessness and what to do with it – to feel the restlessness. It's hard sometimes stepping back and not dong so much, especially when it's what you love to do.
I know an hour didn't seem enough to get it all in, to say all that you could have said,perhaps all you planned to say.
You put your heart and soul into that workshop,we could all see it. It was truly worth five talks.
At the door our team counted over 170 people into that workshop.
That's 170 people who got the chance to face their insecurities and themselves and communicate at level 4/5, and take that away back into their everydayness, and to change their relationships. If those 170 people change the way they communicate with just one person, that's 340 people who are more able to be with each other. 170 people with a taste of what it is like to be more authentic and real. Many who may not have ever done it before, or known about the levels of communication, much less used them well. 170 people who came with stories and frustrations,thinking of situations they needed to go back home to going away with a refreshed and enabled heart. 170 lives that you spoke to, that you may never know the influence you had. Sometimes small, sometimes profound.
That's not low profile. God's work never is.
I hope you have time to recover after Greenbelt. After Greenbelt often feels like a new year to me, post festival blues instead of January blues. &resolutions after the time out and new things I learn. &to recover and process those few days and learn to live in our everyday lives again. Sometimes it's not easy at all.
I hope you don't mind a very long email, but I wanted you to know some of the things I saw that perhaps you didn't get to see, and how grateful I am for your wisdom in the workshop, to tell you one small story.
Study found that 67% of parents said their children were required to report online incidents that made them scared or uncomfortable, but only 32% of teens reported that their parents had imposed such a rule.
The parents of America’s digitally literate teenagers are largely in the dark about their children’s internet activity, new research has shown.
The new study on teen internet use by the National Cyber Security Alliance found that only 13% of teens thought their parents understood the extent of their internet use.
The survey of 804 online teens and 810 parents of teens found that 60% of teens have created accounts for apps or social media sites without their parents’ knowledge. Only 28% of parents thought their teens had accounts they didn’t know about.
The gap between what teens are doing and what their parents know about is indicative of what the NCSA is calling a “digital disconnect between American teens and parents”.
Another example of this disconnect was the wide disparity between how many parents say they have certain rules for their teenagers’ online activities and how many teens agreed.
The study found that 67% of parents said their children were required to report online incidents that made them scared or uncomfortable, but only 32% of teens reported that their parents had imposed such a rule.
“It’s one thing to say: ‘My parents have a rule but I don’t follow it’,” remarked Michael Kaiser, executive director of NCSA. “It’s another to have young people saying that those rules don’t even exist.”
Helping their children navigate a digital adolescence is a major challenge for 21st-century parents. And 62% of teens report spending at least five hours on the internet every day, much of it on mobile devices. Snapchat and Instagram have surpassed Facebook in popularity among teens aged 13-17, while other services such as messaging app Kik are also gaining ground. Many parents don’t use or understand these apps.
And not everything that happens online is pretty. Horror stories about app-enabled kidnappings make headlines, but 39% of teens reported someone being “mean or cruel” to them online in the past year. About one in four said the cruelty related to their sexual orientation, gender or race, and one in five said it was related to their religion.
Rather than attempting to crack down on teen’s internet usage – or trying to figure out every new app that comes along – parents should accept that they cannot know everything, Kaiser said. “A lot of the emphasis has been on knowing everything your child does online –tracking their downloads, understanding every new app that comes out,” he said.
“We think that parents should probably move away from trying to understand everything their kid is doing online and [toward] helping their kid negotiate their online lives and make decisions.”
That means helping children develop “resistance and resilience to bad things online”, and arming them with problem-solving skills so they’ll know who to turn to if they need help.
“It’s not about the technology itself. It’s about how you use it,” he said. “A car can drive multiples of the speed limit. You have to teach them to drive well.”
Tomorrow, we’ll welcome thousands to Greenbelt 2016 : Silent Stars.
Our online Box Office is now closed. But you can still buy all types of tickets from our onsite Box Office when you arrive.
For those already committed to coming (thanks!) and for those still wavering, here's a reminder of just how wild and wonderful this year's lineup is. Browse by day and genre. Day-by-day highlights are here.
If planning ahead is your thing, you can download our Festival App for iOS or Android. (Please note: the App isn’t being updated after its release.)
Here's a short film to give you a sense of what to expect when arriving by Shuttle Bus or into day parking at Festival Reception. It takes you from that arrival point and right down, into and through the Festival Village.
And here's one for those arriving into weekend parking, showing you wristband exchange and the journey down into the main camping fields.
So, it's time to festival again ... but remember
It can get cold at night. Bring warm clothes.
All we have to light us at night are silent stars. Bring torches.
It might rain a bit. Bring waterproof clothing.
There might be hold-ups on your journey. Check travel websites.
Be patient as you arrive and pace yourself unloading and setting up.