Thursday, February 04, 2016

Reflection: Bonfires and Bonding

This year at our Nuru all-staff summit, we started a new tradition, or maybe we continued an older tradition in a new format. We gathered around a fire on the first night of our summit, and shared stories of ways in the past year different members of the team stepped forward and went above and beyond to carry the mission forward. This time of celebrating wins was not entirely new at Nuru, but, the bonfire was.

Sitting around that fire and enjoying some pizza and solid conversations and catch-up times with teammates as the sound of Pacific waves crashed in the darkness beyond us brought back several other memories for me. Back when I was more actively engaged in my tribal community, we would circle up around what we called "Indian-TV" or more specifically "Shawnee-TV" and conduct similar activities. We would enjoy meals, catch-up with one another, share stories, and laugh together as we enjoyed the dance of the fire/"TV" before us. My understanding is that our staff living in Ethiopia and Kenya also have fire pits around which they gather fairly often.

My tribe has a New Year's ceremony (not in January) in which the nation's fire is stamped out to signal the close of the old year and the start of the new year (there's much more to the ceremony, but this is one key element). As the fire is stamped out, individuals are encouraged to make amends, to forgive, and to leave the hurts of the previous year in the past. In this way each year starts with a clean slate.

I can remember heading out to one of my old roommate Lucas Harriman's family home in West Virginia during my undergraduate years too. We would gather about indoors, eat a ton of buckwheat cakes and pizza while simultaneously downing pot after pot of coffee, and then we would make our way outside to a fire pit, and gather around to sing praises to the Creator of the universe, share testimonies of what He was teaching us, and even take time to pray for one another.

I've always thought about a fire as a tool for survival, a place to keep warm, and a place to cook food and share meals, but in reality a fire represents a gathering place, and in some regard, the breath and life of a community. It's no wonder that people talk about relationships ending as "fires going out" or even of death in a similar fashion "their fire burnt out too early."

While I know that there are modern equivalents for gathering spaces, I can't help but think that a fire as a gathering space is unparalleled, especially a fire in the night. The fire calls us away from the darkness, calls us to warmth and laughter, and allows us to see one another more clearly rather than only seeing shadows.

Do you have any fireside memories? May we each make a practice of spending time together with others around a fire, and celebrate community, warmth, and connectedness.

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