it was intimidating at first, even for me, to walk into a room full of 1000+ strangers. naturally, i slipped into observation mode. who was here alone? with a group? which conversations looked too deep to interrupt? was the lady glued to her phone screen busy? or simply covering up the fact that she, too, felt a little intimidated?
i did what anyone else would do at the moment. i went to the bathroom. it was in there that i decided to stop 'stalling' [pun intended]; i left there ready to do what i came there to do in the first place: to connect.
it didn't take long for me to start a conversation after that. i made eye contact with another woman as i came up the stairs. found out she was in the health profession. turns out she knows my housemate. we chatted, and made our way into the conference hall together.
i can't begin to explain the feeling of honour i felt when i saw the stage. tedx is something that i'm familiar with, and something i enjoy listening to, but being there in person seemed nothing short of magical. i couldn't wait for it to start.
talk after talk, i found myself feeling inspired. here were ordinary people doing extraordinary things; a courageous syrian refuge who chose to use his experience to help others who find themselves in the same boat, a doctor whose research and practicality is changing the face of occupational therapy, another who's passionate about encouraging healthy communication in the work place, a 19 year old who decided to change the world by providing water to those who don't have it, and the list goes on. and that includes an inspirational author who asked a lot of thought provoking questions, and a hilarious MC, who climbs mountains. literally. like, the ones you see on postcards.
but then, the clincher. nick saul, president & CEO of community food centres canada, took the stage, and it didn't take long for me to realize why i had a seat with my name on it that day.
i wanted to jump out of my seat when he started talking about poverty. there was so much truth to what he was saying; when we think that hunger is the problem instead of poverty, we believe that handing out sandwiches is the solution, but if we acknowledge poverty for what it is [broken down systems and cycles], we start searching for, and finding, other solutions. 'handing out sandwiches' isn't bad - food is necessary for survival - but so is connection and community, which is the whole reason 'connect2' [the name of my non profit/ministry] exists. hearing nick saul speak confirmed to me that i am on the right track. it's all about connection.
i wondered in that moment, and again during the after party, why every day can't be like this? why does it take a conference for us to listen to others' ideas, and share our own? or an organized event for us to put our phones down and connect?