Gandhi Summer Gathering 2017 – First Impressions

This was my first attendance and I was interested to see what kind of people would be turning up. I came to know of the annual gathering due to my meeting a few people who had attended in the past – Jane Sill, Marjorie Sykes, Ruku and Julian Brotherton.

What I found was of course a very friendly greeting from those people who welcomed me. It was held in St. Christopher’s school in Letchworth and the accommodation was a very old comfortable house/building. I soon discovered that many of the attendees knew each other well as they had been doing this year after year.  It is a nice mix of younger, middle aged and older persons all of whom had something useful and fun to contribute.

I had decided to camp out in a tent. It was a rainy day on arrival and I was offered accommodation inside which was nice.  However, I really like sleeping on the ground next to mother earth with the wind in the trees, bird song, fresh outdoor air and quiet rain falling. Closer to nature. I don’t get this opportunity often enough.

Card games and another table game were in play before dinner and afterwards on the first day. We got the agenda for the week and explanation of what to expect in the first joint meeting after dinner.  It seems to be quite an interesting mix of talks about nonviolence in the mornings and creative joint play time in the afternoons. Lots of time to do your own thing as well. Walks to Letchworth if desired etc.

One of the things we do which I appreciate very much is the sharing of a few minutes of silent time every day together.  At the beginning of the day and at the end of the day.  It gives us all a chance to join in mutual partaking of our life together. 

We stayed in a school which has an interesting history and so one of the group did some research and shared it with the rest of us which was wonderful.

One afternoon I participated in a photograph and microscope workshop opportunity to explore and experience new things.

Of course one of the most important sharing we do is in the communal kitchen. Food is definitely something we all have an interest in and therefore cooking and all the related activities brings the group together. A joint endeavour enjoyed by all.

I met someone who had no family background of nonviolence or pacifism but as a young person decided on his own one day that there was no purpose served in continuing to fight in the playground.  The logical extension of this was of course a road that led to natural interest in Gandhi and other people who also believed in a nonviolent life force.  What an intellectual discovery and one which then of course set him apart from all his class mates which surprisingly did not bother him. What an odd fellow !

We had several stimulating and interesting talks about persons who were influenced by Gandhi’s ideas as well as by his living presence. These were people in India, Europe, North and South America many of whom I had never heard about previously.

Today is the last day of the gathering and it’s going to be a sad farewell for me. I enjoyed the sharing of the community spirit, meeting new friends and experiences.  Even though the group was small I sincerely hope that as long as the financial concerns are met by the participants every year this annual gathering continues to be a source of enjoyment and learning more about nonviolence.

Norman Smith

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