Although I’d been looking forward excitedly to my first Street Wisdom experience, the day began with sadness and a heavy heart. It was 14th November and we’d woken to the news that terrorist attacks in Paris had claimed over a hundred lives the night before. It seemed inevitable that this would cast dark shadows over our reflections as we wandered the streets of Breda. By the end of the afternoon it seemed that I’d underestimated the power of reflection, conversation and children.
We had agreed to assemble in a small courtyard off one of the side streets. A wise decision, as our walk coincided with the arrival of St Nicholas in the Netherlands. The city centre was becoming crowded with families accompanied by small children, many of them dressed as De Sint (the Saint) or his side-kick, Peter. Even this was tinged with negativity
given angry debates across the Netherlands over the tradition of people blackening their faces in the role of Black Peter.
Curiosity seemed to be the pervading feeling among the group as we started on our tuning-in excursions. What exactly would we be doing? What would be the consequences? Could something as ordinary as walking through the streets really give a new insight into the questions which we had for ourselves?
It’s not for me to speak to the questions and the outcomes for the others on the quest. For me the question was “how can I make time for what’s important?” I found myself heading away from the shops and into the park, which itself was important. Material things seem to matter less than they used to and being among trees matters more. A statue brought o mind my children who, as they become young women, need less hands on care and more of a support and guide.
Heading back towards the centre, I spotted the sign “Bar-Dancing” and realised how important it is to me to make more opportunities to dance. Seeing the children excitedly waiting for the man who brings all the presents reminded me of the days when we had taken our girls to see him arrive and how time passes so quickly. At that point I felt very clearly that cleaning the house and ironing seemed less worthy of my time than spending time with my family and that somehow I would need to negotiate doing less of it.
Finally, in the tea room where we met to share our adventures there was a sign. “All you need is love and
cake”. I love to bake and the words seemed to legitimise the time I spend doing it. If legitimising is necessary. Which it isn’t.
These were all ideas that had been simmering in my conscious brain and which had popped up from time to time in recent months. The experience of Street Wisdom helped to connect them and, in making the c
onnections, strengthened them and my resolve to act on them.
Having shared our stories over coffee and cake we reflected on our experience of Street Wisdom. One of the group said how surprised she was that something as simple as walking around and discussing what she’d experienced could be so rewarding. Some of us had conversed with complete strangers during our wanderings – something which would generally never happen during our usual trips to the city.
If we have any advice for anyone starting their Street Wisdom quest it would be to have your question in mind and then let it go. It’s tempting to actively look for things which might seem to fit but more rewarding to just notice what you see or do and how that makes you feel.
By the time we gathered in the cosy tea room to share our experiences and our learning it was chilly and raining quite heavily. The children who had been waiting for Sinterklaas didn’t seem to mind. They played and smiled and did their thing. And it occurred to me that we shouldn’t wait for the right climate to start doing the things that are important. Just get on with it. And that might just mean dancing in the rain.