Tuesday, September 30, 2014

How to make life better

On our first evening in Nowy Tomysl (aka "Beyond Poznan"),  we learned about Habitat Poland's partnership with an incredible non-profit organization called Barka (there's a bit of English info for you at http://www.barkauk.org). Barka is a non profit community in which people who are rebuilding their lives help themselves and one another rebuild their lives. Basically, it involves my favorite things on Earth, like rehabilitation, problem-solving, communal efforts, and the like. The people we meet have in the past had problems with drinking/alcoholism, homelessness, criminal activity, etc. Barka helps people get off the streets and change their lives for the better; they are taken into the community but also have a responsibility to the community. The key is leadership from within, so the leader of each little Barka community (you might say: commune) is someone who has himself struggled with these things, so he can relate and lead by example. Also, Barka sends people to the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, etc. to help Polish and other Eastern European immigrants who are struggling there but might be afraid to come back home, or unable because they've lost their job and are now homeless in a foreign country, and so forth.

So, Habitat Poland has a partnership with Barka. The house we are building is for a man who has successfully passed Barka's "Jacob's Ladder" program, and so he has been rewarded with a piece of land, on which he is (and we are) now Building a house where he and his wife and two children will live. As of now, they are living in the communal Barka house, so that was our staging area for the build, meaning that unlike many other Habitat projects I've worked on, we had actual house facilities around while building the new house, so that's a fun perk. And while Mr.Homeowner worked construction with us, Ms. Homeowner made lunch for everyone (us, the other Barka commune residents who work around the farm, etc. ) and we are talking delicious, here, folks! On the first day there were these potatoes with dill that I basically wanted to face plant into. And one day there was gnocchi... two kinds... oh my heavens. ..

Anyway, the point is that Barka is awesome and on Sunday night when we arrived in Nowy Tomysl, a different Barka community in the area hosted us for a barbecue to introduce the organization and themselves. They all told us their stories and we told them our stories and why we came to Poland and we cooked kielbasa over the fire and it was beautiful.

My old boss in my public radio days, JJ Yore, once explained his theory of life thus: Life is a series of magic moments, and we can look back and see the journey from moment to moment, kind of skipping the insignificant things in between,  almost like a physical path, and we must also be careful about trying to recreate the magic moments that are over, rather than just treasuring them in memory.
This "series of magic moments" theory has always stuck with me (even though I didn't actually follow the advice he was giving me on that specific occasion), and I'd like to couple that here with what Toni Morrison wrote in the dedication of her novel, Sula, that it is sheer good fortune to miss someone before they leave you. I have thought about that sentiment over the years, and Sunday as we ate and talked bilingually and broke bread with the inspiring founder of Barka and this little community, I was filled with joy because I was there, and because I was so happy that I was able to recognize the magic moment as it was happening.

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