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Always (Un)Learning

Last week, our Mentor team and I had the great pleasure of hosting our third Community Call with BC Transit. The purpose of these gatherings is to create a safe space for dialogue and to foster connection between our Mentor group and their Community. In this session, the Mentors aimed to nurture these relationship by emphasizing the cultural importance of introductions. During the first half of the call, we spent time in breakout rooms, each hosted by a Mentor, where participants had the opportunity to share who they are as individuals, with the intention of deepening connections. When the breakout portion concluded, I could sense an invisible wall come down.

As we progressed through the second half of the call, I noted how quickly the time was passing by. I know how important it is to allow time for teachings to be offered, and that a Knowledge Keeper should never be interrupted when they are sharing. I also know how important it is to properly open and close the circle. Finally, I understand that the folks we are working with have busy schedules that can be tightly booked, and did not want to create circumstances wherein they felt anxiety about being late for their next commitment. Despite the gathering being scheduled from 8:30-10:30 am, it was now 10:35, and Mentor Thomas George Jr. of Halalt First Nation was sharing beautiful insights into traditional ways to care for our spirits after engaging in heavy work. In my view, it felt like a natural time to conclude our circle, given the emotional nature of our discussions and the relevant teachings being shared by Thomas. When he finished his sharing I indicated that it felt like "a good note to close on", thanked everyone for their time and engagement, and concluded the call.

Following the session, Mentor George Harris Jr. lingered through the debrief until it was just him and I on the call. George has become a dear friend, and I value his insights on how we are doing this work - and so when he asked me if he could provide feedback on the day's session, I was all ears.

"Kim, I know that we are navigating a balancing act here. We are facilitating a virtual community while striving to uphold Coast Salish protocols. However, we are trying to do this inside the confines of the western work schedule. You need to know that we did not properly close the circle today. I know that we were going over time, but it does not matter in our cultural ways. The work is not done until the circle is closed, and we need to ensure it is properly done moving forward."

As I absorbed George's words, I knew what he said to be true: I recognized the great importance of the teachings being shared, but had also felt pressure to do the work within the time we were allotted. George and I discussed how to address this conflict moving forward, and have decided that it is time to make a few amendments to our etiquette guidelines. In the future I will commit to ensuring that we close our circle in a respectful way. I know I am not doing this work perfectly, but it is my hope that as I learn, I can grow and improve.

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