As Hollyhock’s Development Director, I have the privilege of learning from many of our amazing presenters. A couple weeks ago, I tuned in to listen to Hollyhock’s Sheltering in Community conversation between Hollyhock Vice Board Chair Karen Mahon Carrington and beloved Hollyhock presenter Thomas Atum O’Kane. Those who know Atum know that he is a beautiful spirit and seems to carry infinite wisdom. Among the many poignant insights he shared, Atum spoke about the need to practice grace as we live through these times. I’ve been reflecting on what this means – to practice grace.
When faced with the uncertainty of this global pandemic, I find it is easy to sink into fear, scarcity, and selfishness. I think that to practice grace we need to show up with courage, generosity, and openness. I’ll be honest, it’s been challenging for me. I’ve felt myself falling into a place of “me” – centering my own needs over others. I’ve reacted out of fear. And more than once I’ve failed to listen with an open mind and heart.
Fortunately, despite the grief for what “might have been” of our season at Hollyhock, the employment loss for many of our friends and team members, and the resulting reshuffling of roles on our remaining team, there are others around me who have stepped forward and who are showing me what it means to lead with grace. I am so grateful for and proud of my small and nimble team at Hollyhock. They have been showing up for me, and each other, and our communities, in profound and touching ways.
I am inspired by the generosity of our garden team, who have turned the garden into a hub of community support by providing garden greens and plant-starts to those in need on Cortes Island. I’m grateful for Karen and the program team who have held a free 6-week Sheltering in Community virtual series to connect the Hollyhock community with wonderful teachers like Atum, as well as Dr. Gabor Mate, Rev angel Kyodo Williams, and more. And Laurel, our Social Innovation Manager and her producer team, who stepped up in just a few short weeks to shift our entire Social Venture Institute conference to a wildly successful 3-day virtual offering, redefining the possibilities of connecting in the digital space. All these actions have required flexibility, adaptability, humility, and perseverance in order to learn completely new ways of doing things. The ways I see all my team adjusting in service to something greater really helps me understand what grace is.
Atum referred to the hymn Amazing Grace, “how sweet the sound that saved a soul like me,” which reminded me that grace is about being in service to that “something greater” – whether it be the greater good of ourselves, our communities, or our natural world. While we might not recognize the learning in this moment, I think, if we choose to practice grace, we will look back at this collective lesson in humility and find a deeper sense of connection, community, and purpose.
Atum was one of a number of voices I listened to recently that reminded me why centres like Hollyhock are important now and in the future. These places hold space for higher learning and connection. Insights and relationships that may help serve your higher purpose. It is a place of personal transformation that proceeds the much needed societal transformation.
I am going to take inspiration from my colleagues and find ways that I can practice a little bit more grace each day, even if in small ways. I invite you to join me in doing the same.
“You carry Hollyock with you. It lives within your soul” – Thomas Atum O’Kane
Feel free to share in the comments any of your own reflections on practicing grace at this time!