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Cathy Hird Forgiveness

I heard a really sad story last week. A community of people spent a year pondering how their institution might adapt in the new setting of the twenty-first century with all the pressures and gifts this time brings. In the end, they decided to stay the same. Same structure. Same staff. Although I said nothing to the person telling the story, inside I grieved at the unwillingness to shift.

The next day at a house concert, david sereda sang a piece that begins, "If you want to travel, you've got to move." The logic is obvious: you can't stay in one place and travel. The song goes on to talk about opening mind, heart, and soul, recognizing that change requires shifts in thinking, feeling, commitment. This shift some refuse.

There is a saying that the only constant in life is change. We know this, but still we resist.

Growth is essential to life. We don't get veggies to eat without growth in the garden. A seed has to break open, send roots down, shoots up. Leaves have to spread to make spinach and lettuce. Flowers have to bloom and die back and change to get tomatoes and beans. We know this, but still we refuse to break the shell we are accustomed to.

Children grow. They measure their height, look back at how small they were, gain skills as their body changes. The dramatic changes of teen years are a challenge, but the adult settles into their body, recognizing the things they do easily, accepting--with a struggle sometimes--the things that remain difficult for them. And then we age, our bodies changing again, in ways that can be harder to accept. Is this why we avoid change in our institutions? Does change feel like aging, with a sense of mortality ahead?

We love to travel, and we know that to travel we have to move. But when we go on vacation, we know that we will come back home. And often by the time the trip is over, we are ready to come back to routine, back to the place that we know, the place that is ours. Do we resist change because it will take apart our home, and we won't be able to return?

The pace of change in the twentieth century was too fast. It was hard to keep up with ourselves. The pace of change in this century may even be faster. I went to save a document last week on my computer and a brand-new dialogue box came up. It wasn't hard to figure out what to do, but the process of choosing the folder to save the file into was new. Overnight, my computer had done an update all by itself. This wasn't the first time. Some mornings, I consider turning off the automatic update feature.

I respect those people who refuse to get a cell phone or a computer. Pen and paper work well. Landlines work. Where I live, the landline works better than the cell phone. I call people who don't get email notices of things.

But I am still saddened by institutions that refuse to adapt to our changing world.

I have been intrigued by the shift in perspective at the South Grey Museum. A reading they sponsored took the form of a "pop-up" authors event. The museum opened a space in Markdale, right at the corner, which can be used by the community. That's where we gathered for the reading. Rather than just bringing in people to look at dead exhibits, the museum wants to take events out into the community and to make the museum space a place for living learning.

Change is hard. There isn't a road map. We don't know what will happen when we take things apart. The shape when we put them back together will be different. But the world is different. Trying to hold on to what was is like grasping a wave on a sandy beach.

Change cannot be forced. I understand those who hold on to what is known, what used to work. But things were not "always" this way. There was a "before" that was different. Can we open up to the "after" that is strong and new and growing?

Cathy Hird lives on the shore of Georgian Bay.

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