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The Stirring of Divine Intent:
Celebrating Our Past Accomplishments
By Eric Hellman
Is there something in the past you feel proud of; an accomplishment or success that still speaks to you, and you’d like to share with others? Is it egotistical to do so... or could there be a spiritual purpose behind it?
This past month, I celebrated two past accomplishments in my life. One was the 35th anniversary of launching the world’s first “Blue Box” recycling project. The second was the 30th anniversary of an event at EXPO 86 in B.C., where close to 50,000 people ‘stopped the Fair’ to observe the United Nations International Day of Peace. I recently did a radio interview about the EXPO experience – and it has had me reflecting on why we celebrate our past successes, and how we tell these stories.
It’s also had me nervous about sharing them with others, for fear of having my ego run amok…
Setting the Scene: Recycling
In the 1970s-80s, there was little recycling in most places across Canada. Occasionally, programs were run by the Boy Scouts or other community groups. Some municipalities did newspaper collections. Many also had recycling depots where people could drop off their materials, though relatively few participated. Citizens wanted more, but felt unable to change things. Governments and industry didn’t believe people would really take part, so didn’t invest in programs or recycling plants. Markets were poor for materials collected. And the cycle of frustration and inaction continued.
In September 1981, a small group of us partnered with a garbage collection company, in Kitchener, Ontario, to launch a demonstration project. Its purpose was to show that recycling could succeed if a stable program, with good education, and government and industry-backing was created. Citizens immediately responded. Soon, over 80% were participating. The test project was a resounding success. And it helped grow home collection of recyclables, via blue boxes and bins, across Canada and around the world.
As for Peace...
Think back (if you’re old enough) to 1986. We were in the midst of the cold war and the nuclear crisis, as the USSR and United States faced each other with 'fingers on the triggers' of enough nuclear weapons to annihilate most people on earth. Many people were deeply worried, but felt there was (again) little they could do. The United Nations declared it the International Year of Peace, to get politicians, governments and people around the world thinking about what they could do for peace. And projects were initiated around the globe.
It was also the year of EXPO ‘86, a World’s Fair in Vancouver, where 65 nations, states and companies took part – and for the first time in history, the USSR, USA and China were all present. A couple of us, helping to coordinate a national peace project (called “A Peal for Peace”), saw EXPO as a microcosm of the world, and thought it would be a powerful example if we could hold an event there. We proposed it to the B.C. Government’s Minister in charge of EXPO – and were flatly turned down. The Fair would not be “made a platform for any cause,” we were cordially told.
Informally, however, we learned that officials at EXPO were interested in the event. So I flew from Toronto to Vancouver, took up residence on my grandmother’s dining room floor – and for almost four weeks, walked back and forth across the Fair, personally inviting leaders of the 65 pavilions to take part. Eleven days before the event was to take place, the EXPO Board of Directors officially said “NO” to the project. Yet people on site still wanted it. And on Sept 16th, the UN Day of Peace that year, EXPO “paused” for seven minutes - as 50,000 people, pavilions, rides and officials stopped to take part.
So Why Share These?
I’ve asked myself many times, “Why tell these stories now, 30 and 35 years later?” Is it just my ego wanting to praise myself or be recognized by others? Well yes, there’s definitely some of that in me. I’m human. But I also think there’s more to it. Here’s what I’ve learned from my reflections:
1) A part of us needs to tell our stories. Many of us would like to share the stories of our lives with others (including friends and family), but seldom get asked.
2) We have something to learn from them. Top athletes and business people are often coached to replay their past accomplishments, as a way of gaining insights, encouragement and energy for growing future success.
3) We can tell our stories in two ways: As a way of replaying the past and staying stuck there. Or as a way of finding what’s relevant for our life and world today. They can be used to inflate our egos, or to raise our spirits. Rather than indulging in or repressing our stories (lest “our heads swell”), a healthy appreciation for what we’ve done can actually be a way of nurturing and loving ourselves – and inspiring others.
What I’ve also learned is that while the issues may have changed, the core principles and human challenges are still the same. Many of us feel powerless to change our world. We don’t believe that others care enough to act. And we see problems as too big to confront; so we resign ourselves to believe that there’s nothing we can do.
While most communities now have recycling programs, the desire to “make a difference” – the idea and language at the core of that first Blue Box project – is still very much alive in each of us today. And while the nuclear threat may have ended, the desire for peace is also still deeply rooted in us all. However, its form has changed. Today it’s about finding answers to terrorism, political divides, and the healing of our climate. It’s about finding peace in our hectic daily lives, harmony in our relationships, and sanity in an often crazy world.
We All Have Them
Each of us has ideas and dreams of how we’d like life to be. But if we don’t speak and act on them, they are left inside of us, stillborn, and they die. This doesn’t grow us as human beings; it doesn’t raise and empower us; and it doesn’t heal our world. The same is true when our stories aren't told to others. The joy, pain and learning die within us.
Often, it is actually “ego” (or fear) that stops us from expressing ourselves. Afraid of being prideful or egotistical, we hold back from sharing our deepest hopes, or the meaning of what we’ve accomplished. And this stops us from fully embracing our humanity.
Is there something in the past you feel proud of, that brings joy to your heart or energy to your soul? Perhaps it’s time to tell that story; not as a way of boasting, but of sharing your heart with someone you care about. And if you do so, listen. Because there may also be a spark of divine intent within it – speaking to you, today, about what you can learn from it for tomorrow.
To read more about the first Blue Box project, click here.
To hear the EXPO 86 interview, and the original Site-wide event, click here.
More about Eric Hellman and his current work, conscious change.
The morning after I wrote this article, the following came to mind...
"It's okay to celebrate...
to enjoy, fully appreciate and value something I've done...
to receive love...
to be seen, recognized and appreciated by others.
These are perhaps the hardest for me.
To let these in, to feel them; to allow them for myself.
As soon as they come up, my mind wants to block them.
"It's not okay... You're being egotistical... You're in your ego, or 'small' self."
It's though a part of me has starved me from letting these in...
or allowing them for myself.
Is this Love calling?
Is this Spirit speaking?
Is this God nudging me....?