Summer Tea chats in Leeds

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*Photo taken by Jon Dorsett at John Lewis Store, Leeds ( part of the summer activities programme.)

This weekend Tea and Tolerance visited the John Lewis Store in Leeds and then popped in at the Lingfield Community Hub Retro Fair. It was an amazing weekend. 

Amongst many topics, we talked about the kind of world we would like to live in, and the most important qualities we can have as human beings. Kindness and patience came up as forgotten but very key qualities. Speaking nicely, and being kind were talked about. Could we be kinder and more patient with each other we wondered? Will we? Will you? You decide. We spoke to lots of people of all ages and these are some of their responses to questions they answered…

Do you think before you speak? No. Not as much as I should.

In who’s interest? Sometimes it’s easier not to think about it…sometimes it can be too much and you want to just close the door and shut it out. Once you open your eyes to whats happening in the world you can’t shut them again.

The lack of resources for communities, I mean can you believe that police stations are only open certain days!! What’s that about? That’s not in anyone’s interest.

When people don’t look out for each other.

How does it feel to be wrong? Not being right can be good as it’s how you learn to do something better.

I don’t like it when I get told off – is that getting it wrong?

Where do you belong? I belong with my family. In the pub – having a drink and a nice time with friends. Wherever I feel comfortable and welcome. Wherever I lay my hat…(who sung that song?)

If you had a superpower, what superpower would you have? Patience. All the Super powers in the world!!

If you could change anything, what would you change? Everything. It all needs changing. Where do you start? I would change the school system….as people learn in different ways and that needs to be accounted for or you can cause damage to young people.

* Photographed and drawn by Jon Dorsett for John Lewis Store Leeds as part of the community activities taking place there every weekend this summer.

When do you ask for help? When I need to go to Hospital? Didn’t you just ask me for help to read this question? Oh my god. I did, didn’t I! You’ve really hit on something there with me. That’s deep. This is brilliant!

Not often enough as I don’t like to bother people…(do you mind when people ask you for help?) No not at all it’s a privilege…that’s a good point.

What do you think will happen to our beautiful planet in our lifetime? Well there’s pollution – that’s already happening…and then there’s certain leaders, they are going to change this planet beyond recognition. It’s going to get worse before it gets better!

What is the difference between you and me? We have different skin but we are the same on the inside. Everyone is different and unique but then we are all the same as well. Our finger prints are all different

What inspires you? Everything inspires me: Nature, science, beautiful buildings, nice people, art, talking about exciting ideas.

What floats your boat? Adventure. Gymnastics. Dancing.

What are you grateful for? Friends. My health. Being alive. Sunshine. My kids everyday.

*Photos at Lingfield Living Local and John Lewis Store,Leeds.

What makes you happy? Ice cream in the park on a sunny day. Being with my family.

What stops you in your tracks? Rats. I don’t like them. One came right up to my foot. It was huge.  I was terrified.

What makes you hopeful? Events like these that bring people together and inspire people.

What are you afraid of? Nothing….Spiders!

What makes your blood boil? When someone sets the way things will run and then nobody else sticks to the plan…that does my head in.

Trump!! The state of the world.

People dropping litter – things like that where people don’t show respect.

Why are you here? Like what is my purpose? I try to connect the older ones with the younger ones and vice versa. They don’t always understand each other’s ways of living in the world…I try to help with that.

Do you believe in ghosts? Yes. Some people say when people die they appear like a light in the room. Is that a ghost or just energy? I believe in energy.

No.

Do you believe in Unicorns? Yes! (Performs a little unicorn movement.)

What’s your favourite word? Mermaid. Explore. Ice cream!

How much are you worth? Those two are priceless to me- they mean absolutely everything. ( About his kids) Am I priceless to them too? I guess so.

How does it feel to be vulnerable? In a way, not nice. But it can be really helpful and it happens to everyone at some point. I guess it depends how you handle it.

Can you laugh at yourself? Yes – all the time. I even laugh at my own jokes. You have to laugh don’t you!

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*Photo at Lingfield Living Local ‘Retro” Fair, July 2017.

Article written by Zoe Parker and Lucy Meredith of Tea and Tolerance. Tea and Tolerance is a live art ‘installation’ – a roaming tea trolley brewing up refreshing conversations which go beneath the surface. We support better cohesion, understanding and tolerance within our communities. This weekend was possible thanks to generous funding from John Lewis and Leeds Community Foundation #GiveLoveLeeds fund.

Tea and Tolerance received a Leeds Fund #GiveLoveLeeds Grant, thanks to support of the Fund’s Anchor Partner, John Lewis Leeds. Managed by Leeds Community Foundation, The Leeds Fund creates positive change in the communities of Leeds that need it most by distribributing financial grants and support to community projects across the city.

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Tea and Tolerance at Leeds Citizens First Gathering…

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Leeds Citizens is a newly formed alliance of civil society organisations working together for the common good of Leeds. We have raised over £65,000 of local funding from membership dues and Founding Partner contributions and employ a professional Community Organiser to support our work. Following a six-month Listening Campaign, our members have built community relationships and recently voted to begin campaigns on Poverty, Health and Social Care and Transport.

The event came at the end of our 6-month Listening Campaign – a focused effort to build relationships and identify the major issues affecting our communities. Through one-to-one conversations, group meetings and community events, trained teams of leaders highlighted a number of common concerns across communities:, including Poverty, Transport, Community Facilities, Health & Social Care, Litter and Dog Fouling. Following testimonies on each issue, the newly announced members of Leeds Citizens voted to prioritise 3 of these for public action ( transport, living wage and mental health).

We were invited by Sue Howie to bring Tea and Tolerance to the first gathering of Leeds Citizens. So we gathered along with about 750 other people at the Centenary Pavillion at Elland Road – on the anniversary of 7/7 bombing to talk, share and listen. The people reflected a multiplicity of diversity across the city. The aim to bring the communities of Leeds together to talk about and create actions for the common good of the city and the people of the city. We then were all invited to join the muslim community for the breaking of their fast for Ramadan. Tea and tolerance spoke with people before the gathering started and then again afterwards….

How do you make the perfect cup of tea? Easy. You put the bag in first, then the water, then the milk. Some people put the milk in first then the bag and hot water, but i don’t understand that. Makes no sense.

Have you found your voice? Yes. I think so. Maybe. Yeah he’s found his voice.

When do you cross the line? All the time. I like crossing the line. I usually have to learn by my own mistakes. More fun that way. Of course you do have to deal with the consequences of line crossing but it’s the best way to learn I think.

How does it feel to be wrong? Not good.

Do you count? Yes. Yes I count. Unless you are meaning counting like numbers. I was thinking more like I matter. I do. We all do.

When do you laugh at yourself? All the time. The other day I tripped and i could feel myself going and i thought that i was going to smack my head on the floor. At the last moment i caught my balance and I just laughed out loud at that ridiculous near miss.

What is freedom? Freedom is choice. Feeling you have a choice and can make a difference. Or is that power? How do power and freedom relate to one another?

What makes you happy? Here this event – all these people that have come together to make a difference and improve our city for the common good. That makes me so happy!

If you could change anything, what would you change?Tricky. How do you know you are changing things for the better?

What’s stopping you? Nothing. Nothing is stopping me. I am on fire. And nothing will stop me doing this. i am so inspired by the people around me and all that hey are achieving. it is all so amazing. i don’t have a venue at present for my pop up cafe but it doesn’t matter. I’m not worried. It won’t stop me.

What do you think of your neighbour? I like my neighbours. we get on well. I expect it can be challenging depending where you live. Flats for instance can be a bit noisy. I used to have a neighbour who was either arguing or making up from arguing with her boyfriend. Both of these were noisy. I think its easier if you know and get on with your neighbours – things they do don’t seem to matter as much then.

How does it feel to be vulnerable? Not good. I would imagine that feels lonely and scary and a bit sad.

Comments added to our Handbook for being a Human in the 21st century/Questions added… Always be ready for surprises. Question everything, We need to bring people of all different communities together to talk to each other. (M Khialiq) What’s ‘your’ meaning of life? How do I become a more compassionate person? What is the difference between freedom and power?

Comments:Brilliant! Really enjoyed this. What a good idea! We need more things like this. We need to build relationships and talk to people- move out of our comfort zones and build more understanding and compassion for people who are different from us. We need to understand and have compassion. Listening is the first step. Many thanks for all  contributions.

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Tea and Tolerance – the past 9 months of contributions …

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Questions posed and answers given across 18 groups we have worked with since September 2014 (as remembered and interpreted by the Tea and tolerance team.)

What is the difference between you and me? We noticed that two of us were wearing stripey t-shirts and jeans with pony tails. We saw the similarities first. Do we generally look at the external things before internal ones? I guess if you think about needs we are a lot more similar than we are different. I heard that we are 60% the same as a banana! I think its one dna strand that differs humans form apes is it?

What’s your favourite word? Love. Peace. Hope. Chagrin. I like that word. Discombobulated….it means you know a bit out of sorts, not quite feeling balanced or with it. Oh I like that word….i’m going to use that.

Why are you here? That sounds quite esoteric. Like what is my purpose on this earth? Literally, the answer… I’m here so I can get out of the house, to meet people and do things.

What makes you feel good? Looking good on the outside always makes me feel a lot better. Tanning bed makes me feel brilliant! Travelling. I’d like to go to Egypt – I d like to live there- teach english or dance. I would love that.

When do you laugh at yourself? Yes – all the time. Got to laugh at your self. If you don’t laugh, then you might cry. I laugh when I look in the mirror.

How much are you worth? As a mother of a disabled boy I am priceless- as his carer i am indispensable. Makes me really emotional to realise that.

Nought – you come into the world with nought and you leave the same way. Is what we are worth based on how much we earn? Could it be another way? Where what we are worth isn’t connected to our income. How else do we contribute to be valuable? I want to contribute. I want to be able to contribute. I do my best to be there for people, to listen to them, to inject some humour.

Kindness or Intelligence? Both surely. Kindness surely is intelligence. Of course sometimes people choose intellect and logic over being kind, but one doesn’t have to exclude the other. Every action we take surely is best coming from a place of kindness and intelligence?

What makes you happy? Family makes me happy. Sometimes. When we are not arguing. I love my family. Good food makes me happy. These guys….that come here make me happy. Dancing. Drawing. My friends. Being with the people I love.

What makes you feel good? Talking with friends, meeting new people, getting out of the house,having a laugh, going on trips when I can. Blue skies. Making things. Good friends. Having time to do the things I want to do.

What inspires you? People doing amazing things like raising lots of money for charity by trekking in the Himalayas or running a marathon or something. I couldn’t do that. Amazing cities. Being in my camper van. A beautiful view. A lovely day. Love. Beauty. Lots of things.

What is Love? I’ve been married for 57 years. Love is caring for another person – putting their needs ahead of your own. Or is that devotion maybe. Love is putting up with each other and sticking together. Love is arguing things out – a marriage without arguments means someone is under the thumb. That’s no good. Love gosh…I had a perfect wife…I lived a wild life and she put up with it. I had freedom and fun. I did everything. Love hurts. It scares me to love someone. I feel trapped by it. I’m afraid for when they will leave. Love is seeing the magic in another person. It can get mixed up with need, possession, desire….but the love isn’t those things. Best way to love someone is a way that allows them to be totally themselves.

Can you love someone even though you do not agree with their beliefs? Yes. Plenty of people I love that I don’t agree with on every belief. Does it make a difference what the difference of belief is? Do we love different people in different ways? Is love two-fold? Or multi-faceted? Yes – simply put, of course I can. Whether I always do, that is less easy. Isn’t that the point of this? Of making things better? To genuinely listen with compassion to someone who you disagree with? Love the person – question the belief. I love family unconditionally, other people I choose to love, and then there is love of other human beings, places and things that I encounter in life? With unconditional love of family and so on, I disregard the beliefs I don’t agree with. Though  are their limits to this – like very extreme views that would threaten this love? What if they actively participated in things I disagreed with? Zenophobe? Homophobe? Racist? Paedophile? Would that be tolerable for me? Do we then need to make it clear that we disagree with that particular belief? And how does that affect the relationship and love we share with that person? We agreed with people who are less close to us, we can have an array of beliefs we don’t agree on. Though do we agree to disagree or just never speak about those differences? With romantic love, I expect or need those major beliefs and values to match I think.  Would I choose not to love someone or get to a point of loving someone who had beliefs I did’t agree with? if so, what happens if I already love someone and discover a major belief mismatch? Though it might be that i can still love them…but perhaps not be with them in a partnership.

What are you afraid of? Spiders. I hate them. The dentist. Losing my kids. Yeah. The social taking my kids off me. The unknown. Loneliness. Illness. Death. Change. Everything. Nothing. I try not to be afraid of anything.

Where do you belong? Everywhere. Or nowhere – because if I belong in one place then that means I don’t belong somewhere else. Everyone always thinks they are not in the circle or ‘in group’ but I wonder who is in that circle? Perhaps its just that we perceive our selves in a place of not belonging. we should accept and include everyone. Pull down all the borders.

What do you think of your neighbour? Oh don’t ask. that is THE question at the moment. She is just so tricky. Oh I don’t want to talk about it. Interesting question. Do you mean in my house, or in neighbouring countries. I like my next door neighbours. I make appoint of checking in on them. I have never met my neighbours. I am only aware of them because of their noise – the music is loud and they argue.

What are you ready for? Something new. Something else. Anything. I’m ready for anything…thats what I always say and I mean it. I am ready to have somewhere to live. Homelessness isn’t nice. I’ve done a lot of sofa surfing and I’m ready to have my own place..not living in someone else’s home. I am ready for more income. I am ready for better health.

What is freedom? Being able to do what you want. I do what i want mostly. Freedom for me is a day of fun and not having to work. I feel pretty lucky because I am very free. Not everyone is though. Some people are afraid to say or do what they want because they might have a partner who won’t like it or maybe will hurt them if they do. Having a passport…gaining legal residency in uk….that means my husband and I are free to travel again. People think its incredibly easy to get into this country- it’s really not. Even with being married its difficult and time consuming. Its taken over five years. It’s an interesting one. I recognise that I live a fairly free life. I have the freedom to speak my mind, walk the streets, particularly compared to some countries but I don’t feel free. I feel trapped and burdened by responsibilities. Maybe the freedom comes when you are older…your kids are grown, you have more time, and less ties and more choice to do what you want.

How does it feel to be right? People can have their views even if you don’t agree…everyone has the right to have their own views. I have the right to have a different view. Is that respect? (Smiles.) Feels great. He’s the quiz master, so he’s always right. Brilliant. Love being right. Im always right. Love it when I google something like whose the first actor to play Bond…it was Sean Connery! Yep I was right.

When do we ask for help? If we rarely ask, why is that? Sometime I don’t ask because I am not willing to hear ‘no!’ Is it somehow worse to ask and have that request turned down? How does that feel? If we know people who do not ask for help even though we may see or feel there is a need for help….how do we support them? I think there is something in how requests are met that is important. Requests met with anger, with guilt, with sympathy can perhaps be requests we wish had never shared. And what if we are met with empathy? Does the yes/no matter if the person gets where we are coming from? Maybe not.

In whose interest? What do we mean? Is it our own interest we wondered, because how can it be anybody else’s? Is there even such a thing as an action that is entirely ‘altruistic’ with no personal gain? Ah, now that question makes so much sense.My interest. Can it be for other though? The greater good.?The common good? But what and who is that?

How does it feel to be vulnerable? First we talked about what ‘vulnerable’ means as it has different meanings in different contexts. Vulnerable to harsh weather, or one’s home is vulnerable, or i feel vulnerable alone on that dark street, or children are vulnerable to all sorts of things, as opposed to choosing to be ‘open’ and so in that openness being ‘vulnerable’. We thought about how it can be good to be open or porous to what is around us ( hence vulnerable) but only if we have the resilience and resources to cope with those vulnerabilities. Being vulnerable can break us down but that isn’t always a bad thing. It can lead to better and more honest lives that bring us more happiness or other rewards. It can move us forward or somewhere unexpected – again sometimes this is a great thing. Is vulnerability the only state to be in? Are we not all ‘vulnerable’ humans on some level? Is it about choice? If you choose to be vulnerable then that can be a great thing so long as you have the resources around you to deal with whatever happens, but if the state is thrust upon you it is less easy. You can still choose how you react though – and whether you go into a fearful or resourceful place in that situation.

What makes you angry? Many things. Far too many to remember. Sometimes the more I think about this question, the more things I get angry about. When I see young children with their parents and their parents are on mobile phones, not playing with them at all. Those kids are little for such a short time, and they are just missing the whole thing. It’s a loss. People coming in here and telling me they are going to vote UKIP….like thats going to make anything better! It just makes me so angry….I want to explain to them how they aren’t going to be better off the way they believe they will, ….that there aren’t people from other countries coming in and stealing ‘their’ jobs. I mean, how can you have your jobs stolen when you aren’t even applying for jobs….but you can’t change people’s minds…their views are set.They’ll just look at you like you’re mad and think what they think. People being harsh and angry with others….I saw a woman in a supermarket and she was chatting to the woman at the till and taking her time and the person behind her just ‘lost it’. of course THERE are two sides to every story….it was supposed to be a fast till, but still. there is just no need to shout at people. It’s abusive. Perhaps the check out assistant could have managed it better…but for some people, coming in and talking to someone at the check out maybe the only conversation they have all day. You think about that and maybe being slowed down a little bit, losing a few minutes, doesn’t seem so important. Things happening that I feel are unfair. Things that I have no power to change but I am unable to accept. Is this perhaps the state of intolerance making me feel angry? If their were no limits, what would you do? There’s a question what wouldn’t I do? (Many smiles in response to this question.) Me- I’d get rid of all the bad people who put me down and make me feel bad. I would have all the luxuries I could want. I would have only nice people around me.

Common good or individual satisfaction? So me or other people? Both. Can it be both? Is it selfish to think of myself? Surely we have to please ourselves in order to please other people. I’m a giver me, thats my problem- too trusting. I do things a lot for others. I’d like to get to a point where i do things for me.

What stops you in your tracks? Nothing. Nothing stops me. If there is a wall in my way I’ll just find a way to go through it or over it, but i always keep going….keep moving forward. What else can you do? ……Death….maybe that stops me….when someone you love dies that’s hard. I guess extremes whether good or bad stop us…..a beautiful moment..a sad moment….something that arrests the senses….yes its the extremes that stop me in my tracks. Great questions. Great kindnesses, beauty or wonder stops me in my tracks. Children asking you for love. It’s easy to ignore a small human when we are busy but when your daughter you for a hug in the supermarket thats ‘fair play’ –  I just get down on your knees and hug. Intense pleasure, pain, danger, anger, beauty and love. My mother dying. The recent election result!!! Extreme actions, wrong doings and emotions…a really beautiful view, a poignant moment, a child smiling, children in general…these things make me stop…and be hopeful…and smile. Babies. They are so innocent – full of hope. Nothing to do but stop and fall into their eyes.

Do you really listen? Yes. I can’t hear that well, so that’s an issue with listening, but still I’m a pretty good listener. I don’t always choose o listen…if it’s a talk and I’m not interested in it. Sometimes I listen. Not always. Sometimes I just lose it – someone says something I don’t agree with or that makes me feel angry or hurt… its hard for me to listen then. When people are telling me what to do in my own home or telling me how to raise our kids.

Have we lost the art of conversation? Maybe. I hate Face Book – it’s a lot of rubbish. Why do I want to know about what someone had for dinner? People spend a lot of time on computers, tablets, phones. Is it good? It probably means people talk less. Then again it’s a way to keep in contact with people on the other side of the world and actually I know someone who used skype as part of their funeral so that the daughter of the man who had died could be there. It was weird with this woman walking around pointing her computer at everyone but you know it’s a good if it brings people together.

Are you entitled? No. I’d say no. It’s a bit like the question about freedom. I know I am free and I know I am entitled to lots of things but I don’t feel like I am entitled to much of anything. Funny question. Great question actually. What are we each entitled to? What is entitlement anyway? Are we entitled to love?..to safety? …a home?…to a kindness and support when we are vulnerable…being looked after and cared about irrespective of what we earn or have? Are we entitled to respect and compassion? Love. Freedom. Kindness. Water and Food. Shelter- somewhere to live. Shouldn’t  all humans be entitled to those things?

What makes you stand up? I usually stand up for people. I hope I would anyway. Sometimes you have to weigh up if you are strong enough and able to make a difference if you stand up. I have been in a position where I didn’t feel I could and that didn’t feel nice at all. I felt weak. When I was younger it was easier, i would think more now before getting involved. Once I heard this teacher shouting at these kids and i just had to say something. it’s not right speaking to people like that. He apologised to me after.

If you could change anything what would you change? Like what do I want most…..? I want a job. I would be healthy and fit….able to work….pain free. You can’t do anything without health. Money doesn’t buy health either. Well, I guess it can help…. can’t it…it’s not the money itself but what it gives you access to. Sometimes I just sit in my house and I feel sad, you know. I give a lot when I am out with people and I get home and I’m exhausted. I would make cheese healthy. It is, isn’t it?!! Now thats not a small question is it. I would change it so that humans average life expectancy was 300 years or more…so that they live long enough to have to deal with the consequences of their choices. l would be ‘good vibes’ electricity – enough to power the whole world and this fuel I create would have a zero carbon footprint. What if that was possible? I would make everyone start on an equal footing.

How do we genuinely make things better for everybody? I could write a PHD on that. Depends what you mean by ‘everybody’ and ‘genuine’. Many times when this word is used by politicians I have found it to be disingenuous – to get our votes – they ‘genuinely’ promise but they don’t deliver. The other week I met a girl who was pushing her bike because the brakes weren’t working. I had a look at it and fiddled with something…it was only a two minute job. The brakes were just disconnected. I didn’t expect anything back from her. People are always suspicious now of people offering help. But that’s genuinely making things better – we help each other, we do a good deed each day. We smile and offer kindness to the people around us. If every person in the world does that, then it changes the world for the better doesn’t it? We take responsibility and stop blaming other people – its ridiculous you cant clear your own path from snow, councils won’t sharpen your shears, people living in fear of being sued….we need to be doing things that make sense and compassionate. How does it help if I fall over on the ice because nobody could clear the path or for fear of falling I stay in my home for days. Impossible. You can’t make things better for anyone. Can you? I hate this government – all governments. They don’t listen. They do one thing then they do something else completely different. I don’t bother with any of that. It’s all about the people who have money. They don’t care about the people who don’t have anything. They don’t care about me. The NHS will be broke in 30 years – its shocking, a disgrace.

How can we forgive? It’s very difficult. I never forgive. Three strikes and you are out. Can we forgive? And even if I can, should I? How do I do that anyway? Does letting go, moving on, finding ‘grace’ help? What about putting myself in the other person’s ‘shoes’? I don’t agree with that forgive but don;t forget. How can you really forgive someone if you haven’t forgotten? Think the kindness and reason to forgive sis for ourselves. If I hold on to the anger or hate for their wrong doing, it’s me it hurts because it steals my happiness an peace of mind, doesn’t it?

What needs to happen so we can have peace in this world? Like what would you do if you were in charge…like the government?We need to get rid of all the foreigners claiming fraudulent benefits and taking our jobs. People who come to this country shouldn’t get any benefits or free health care. Its wrong. One guy lives in europe somewhere and just comes over to register each of his kids so that he can claim benefits. He doesn’t even live here! We just have the gates wide open. Free stuff – thats why everyone wants to come here. We need to keep the country for us and shut our borders. Whats the difference if a person is from another country or this one – people from this country cheat the system as well and all that stuff. Everyone should get help. What if it was your sister that was from Africa and they came here and couldn’t get help? How would that feel? Would you want people you love to be thrown out? What if you went to another country and you needed help – were ill and in need of care? Isn’t it the same thing? We are all the same. I don’t vote. I never vote. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer. That’s it – what’s the point in voting. They don’t care and my vote won’t change anything. But if you don’t vote then how can you change anything? Do you even have the right to say anything about the system if you don’t vote. Yes she has the right to have an opinion. Of course she does. Anyway I don’t know why I’m getting at you, I haven’t even registered to vote myself!

How does it feel to be wrong? Oooh, it sucks. I hate being wrong – it can make me fall apart. It’s hard in moments to forgive myself my mistake – then I make myself wrong for it- which is heart breaking. Then I remember or try to remind myself that learning to walk ( like all learning) is a series of failed attempts.

Who is the Enemy? I am. I am my own worst enemy. There have been situations where I have blamed others for situations but when I really think about it, it was me – my choices. Its good to realise this I think. Gives me the choice to do something different next time. If I remember. Everyone you don’t like. Is that true? David Cameron is my enemy. All the political parties because they all do wrong by people who don’t have much. They make promises and don’t keep them. It’s disgusting. So what do we do about that? I am! I’m the ‘baddie’ – pow pow!!

Who matters to you most? Me. Is that allowed? Can I matter most? Not one person…all my family and close friends matter. Can depend on the situation…if my car has broken down, maybe a mechanic or someone else who can help matters most…or even that depends. Everybody matters, don’t they? Think of the bees….we are all significant and vital to each others survival. Does the answer have to be ‘others’? Is it selfish if that person that matters most is me? Can I really be there for the people I love, if I am not the person who matters most to me? Isn’t that my responsibility? To make myself happy…to show up for me? I am the only person I cannot live without. Though others are perhaps the reason to live.

Where do you draw the line? Right here. That’s the end.

Men talking…

 

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Tea and Tolerance were guests at the Men’s Room. The Men’s Room group –  run by Space2, meets every Tuesday from 10.30am – 12.30pm at Denis Healey Centre in Seacroft. It’s a regular, welcoming safe space for local men to come together and chat, drink tea and take part in all sorts of activities from playing pool to painting and woodwork.

Every week they share a meal and those who wish can join in the cooking. It’s a great opportunity to meet new people, share stories and experiences, gain skills and build confidence.

It was great to be their guests on tuesday…wonderful people who spoke honestly with humour and heart.

We talked with many of the men about all sorts of things….. boats, sofa surfing, mobile phones, the right to disagree…. did we put the world to rights? Maybe not entirely…but perhaps we made a start? Here’s some of what we chatted about…from my recollection of what was said….I remember some things..I will for sure have forgotten other things….feel free to add your perspective if you were there…or even if you weren’t.

What makes you angry? Many things. Far too many to remember. Sometimes the more I think about this question, the more things I get angry about. When I see young children with their parents and their parents are on mobile phones, not playing with them at all. Those kids are little for such a short time, and they are just missing the whole thing. It’s a loss.

People coming in here and telling me they are going to vote UKIP….like thats going to make anything better! It just makes me so angry….I want to explain to them how they aren’t going to be better off the way they believe they will, ….that there aren’t people from other countries coming in and stealing ‘their’ jobs. I mean, how can you have your jobs stolen when you aren’t even applying for jobs….but you can’t change people’s minds…their views are set.They’ll just look at you like you’re mad and think what they think.

People being harsh and angry with others….I saw a woman in a supermarket and she was chatting to the woman at the till and taking her time and the person behind her just ‘lost it’. of course THERE are two sides to every story….it was supposed to be a fast till, but still. there is just no need to shout at people. It’s abusive. Perhaps the check out assistant could have managed it better…but for some people, coming in and talking to someone at the check out maybe the only conversation they have all day. You think about that and maybe being slowed down a little bit, losing a few minutes, doesn’t seem so important.

What makes you happy? Family makes me happy. Sometimes. When we are not arguing. I love my family. Good food. These guys….that come here make me happy.

How does it feel to be right? People can have their views even if you don’t agree…everyone has the right to have their own views. I have the right to have a different view. Is that respect?

What would you step into?  I am ready to have somewhere to live. Homelessness isn’t nice. I’ve done a lot of sofa surfing and I’m ready to have my own place..not living in someone else’s home. I am ready for more income. I am ready for better health.

Are you entitled? Funny question. We decided in the end a great question. What are we each entitled to? What is entitlement anyway? Are we entitled to love?..to safety? …a home?…to a kindness and support when we are vulnerable…being looked after and cared about irrespective of what we earn or have? Are we entitled to respect and compassion?

What makes you stand up? I usually stand up for people. I hope I would anyway. Sometimes you have to weigh up if you are strong enough and able to make a difference if you stand up. I have been in a position where I didn’t feel I could and that didn’t feel nice at all. I felt weak. When I was younger it was easier, i would think more now before getting involved. Once I heard this teacher shouting at these kids and i just had to say something. it’s not right speaking to people like that. He apologised to me after.

If you could change anything what would you change? Like what do I want most…..? I want a job. I would be healthy and fit….able to work….pain free. You can’t do anything without health. Money doesn’t buy health either. Well, I guess it can help…. can’t it…it’s not the money itself but what it gives you access to. Sometimes I just sit in my house and I feel sad, you know. I give a lot when I am out with people and I get home and I’m exhausted.

How much are you worth? Is what we are worth based on how much we earn? Could it be another way? Where what we are worth isn’t connected to our income. How else do we contribute to be valuable? I want to contribute. I want to be able to contribute. I do my best to be there for people, to listen to them, inject some humour.

What stops you in your tracks? Nothing. Nothing stops me. If there is a wall in my way I’ll just find a way to go through it or over it, but i always keep going….keep moving forward. What else can you do? ……Death….maybe that stops me….when someone you love dies that’s hard. I guess extremes whether good or bad stop us…..a beautiful moment..a sad moment….something that arrests the senses….yes its the extremes that stop you.

Conclusions. It was lovely to be the guests of The Men’s Room on Tuesday …wonderful people who spoke openly with humour and heart. It was great to be around the hustle and bustle of setting up for the meal as well….large tables, chairs, bowls, cutlery for twenty plus people ( almost exclusively men). Then we all proceeded to eat delicious ‘orange’ soup together. Like being part of a huge family except there really was plenty of food to go round. We think this is a wonderful project and hope to visit again!

We leave you with a question and comment from the group…. (feel free to comment on the question, add your own questions ,or offer an alternate contribution in the comments box below.) You can also follow us on Facebook.

“Do you think we have the right to end our own lives?”

“I really enjoyed myself…. just to have a discussion about things was great. I really do believe the more we talk the better understanding of one another we get!” D.G.

Tea and Living Local…

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On Saturday 31st January Living Local hosted a community event at Allerton CE Primary School. The atmosphere was relaxed and welcoming. It was a positive way to start 2015 and to build links between people and groups.

Between 12-2pm around 70 people (aged from 3 weeks to 80 years old) enjoyed a range of food, activities, games and the chance to speak with one another. The food was supplied by the local chip shop, the Iqra group and a team of volunteer cake makers. Children and adults took part in a variety of games and enjoyed the indoor trampoline, face painting, football, a local knowledge quiz and a raffle.

A dialogue group called Tea & Tolerance provided a space for people to have deeper discussions on their neighbourhood. Short updates were provided by Living Local and the Iqra group and invitations were made to people to visit the new Iqra building and also to become involved in future Living Local community activities.

A range of future activities for 2015 have emerged out of this event. These include; a spring clean up, 6 weeks of sport for children, restoration of the community garden with the support of Business in the Community in May and a September bbq. The event was a collaborative effort and a mix of people all worked together to create it. This included local residents, members of the Iqra group, Allerton CE primary school, St John’s Church, Moortown Baptist Church and Living Local. A big thankyou to everyone involved and Living Local are looking forward to future events.

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Tea at Magellan House – part 1.

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Questions and thoughts that came up in our Tea Talks at Magellan House at the end of 2014.

 

Why don’t people communicate anymore? Is quality of conversation better in a room or on twitter? The one to one conversation possible on twitter can be intimate where you really get to know people you are conversing with. Yet it has an anonymity meaning anyone can say anything….

…like trolls, is it all a little unreal, de-humanising/ robotic even …follow me LIKE me..is this really a sign that we are #lonely, a desperate cry pleading #loveme ? Or a marketing game?

Has technology killed the art of conversation? If aliens looked down from above, what a strange sight they would see. Huge volumes of individuals locked into handheld devices. Is this a bad thing? What do we miss? Look up. Look Around. And what do we gain through technology? Knowledge. Wisdom. Connection. Or is it just Noise? Or is it the natural evolvement? Does it make people lonely or create global communities? Does it have to be one or the other?

What stops you in your tracks? Kindness. Laughter. Beauty. Cruelty. Unfairness. Seeing one person argue and shout on the street or at their kids in a supermarket…its one of those things you react to moment to moment. I try not to judge. I don’t have the full picture of the situation. So when do you intervene? I have asked before if  everything is ok when I have seen two people arguing in a way that it seems like one is at risk from the other.

If you had the power what would you do? Throw the Tories out. Thats my answer today. Put someone in government that cares about people who need help. If I had the power, I would get rid of greed. Take away that and it takes away a lot of the problems. Is greed the driver in motivating growth and change though? What would you replace that with? Love and self knowledge is a motivator too. Passion to become more oneself.

Should we be smarter about the way we work? Could we strive for balance that allows each person to flourish? We live in a world of extremes. There is an old japanese saying about dropping down dead from work. And people often do. Maybe we could re-define the standard of living. Consider – is this existence feeding my soul as a ‘being’ too? Could we value time over material? I would choose love over time and money. Love is everything…living, doing, breathing, experiencing. I never want to feel like I need to retire. I would rather earn nothing and find another way to live. Working can be just putting yourself into a form of slavery. Why would you do that if you had a choice?

 

 

 

 

A little thought….

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START GENTLY

The End of the World is Nigh (again)…

Ask & Answer questions, take part, make conversation – find your way: it is now. It is always now.

Infinite Revolutions The Eternal Return

How can we celebrate diversity & embrace unity? – all one & alone

King / Queen & Country” vs “The world is my country & to do good is my religion” :when we hand over our responsibility for self to others, we need to be very careful….mindful about who it is we hand it to…

What will ‘they’ do if removed from the powerful positions they currently inhabit?

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”

~ Lao Tzu

What surprises you most about humanity?

Abuse. Transcendence. Human Greed. “Oh I’m so conflicted… am I to play with my new hoover or go out foraging for bonfire wood?”

A justification for joining in with the only worthwhile form of resistance on the planet..?

Stop it with statistics, bar charts, graphs, development & business plans.

A rhythm and a rhyme in time flowing like a river as still as a mountain.
What is choice? What is it to choose? When is enough, enough?

Is it all violence – this clash of constant energy that surrounds us? It is us. We are part of it. It is not a dualism, it is a precarious balance of multiple forces. It operates simultaneously in many directions and dimensions.

How can we create frameworks that cause us to reach out to each other, rather than shut down?

What is it to you, to love someone?

“What is love?”
“The total absence of fear,” said the Master.
“What is it we fear?”
“Love,” said the Master.

– Anthony de Mello

 

Written by Jason Hird of  The Institute for Crazy Dancing.

How do we forgive?

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You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, ‘I forgive. I’m finished with it.’
Maya Angelou

One of the thorniest and most difficult things we humans are ever called upon to do is to respond to evil with kindness, and to forgive the unforgivable. It is easy for one’s default to be anger, fear, depression or self-righteousness, Yet study after study shows that one of the keys to longevity and good health is to develop a habit of gratitude and let go of past hurts.

Forgiving really is the kindest thing you can do for yourself. Your enemy may not deserve to be forgiven for all the pain and sadness and suffering purposefully inflicted on your life, but you deserve to be free of this evil.

As Ann Landers often said, “hate is like an acid. It damages the vessel in which it is stored, and destroys the vessel on which it is poured.”

Tea at Trinity Church….

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Sometimes somebody asks you the exact question you need to hear in the exact moment you need to hear it. When this happens it seems incredible….serendipitous even. Tea and Tolerance’s visit to Trinity Church as part of Compass Live Festival was witness to a number of these experiences. I wonder – does the perfect question find us, or do we hear what we need to hear in the questions we find? It’s an interesting thought.

So another evening of the roaming tea trolley. Outside it’s dark and the rain is lashing down. The battery on the car goes ‘kaput’ at the entrance of the church. Kind man walks through the rain to get his van to help us. A jump start for later. It’s tricky and inconvenient. Life, yes. And even so, this is our time for talking, listening, sharing…so we do. How much do we humans wish to be listened to?

The location – a confessional place. A place to say things that are not shared with everyone, or perhaps even with anyone. Intimate and lovely conversations. Here’s some of the questions and thoughts that came up….

When do we ask for help? If we rarely ask, why is that? Sometime I don’t ask because I am not willing to hear ‘no!’ Is it somehow worse to ask and have that request turned down? How does that feel? If we know people who do not ask for help even though we may see or feel there is a need for help….how do we support them? I think there is something in how requests are met that is important. Requests met with anger, with guilt, with sympathy can perhaps be requests we wish had never shared. And what if we are met with empathy? Does the yes/no matter if the person gets where we are coming from? Maybe not.

What matters to you most? Does the answer have to be ‘others’? Is it selfish if that person that matters most is you? We wondered..can we really be there for the people we love, if ourself isn’t the person who matters? After all, you are the only person you cannot live without ( well aren’t you?) Though others are perhaps the reason to live.

In whose interest? What do we mean? Is it our own interest we wondered, because how can it be anybody else’s? Is there even such a thing as an action that is entirely ‘altruistic’ with no personal gain? Ah, now that question makes so much sense.

What makes you angry? Things happening that I feel are unfair. Things that I have no power to change but I am unable to accept. Is this perhaps the state of intolerance making me feel angry?

Can you love someone even though you do not agree with their beliefs? Yes -simply put, of course I can. Whether I always do, that is less easy. Is spirituality a dirty word? Interesting question whilst sitting ‘in the house of god’.

What does it mean to be completely listened to? As we pondered this question, the background noise was loud. We leaned in to hear a little better. Is listening completely a particular choice or intention? It perhaps takes a certain level of openness and concentration and an absence of ‘I’ or Ego’ or self concern. There is an absence of opinion. You could say in listening completely, it is the person who is speaking that matters most. I think listening completely is a lot like empathy…here’s a definition I found on a comment about a RSA talk on the power of Empathy that I think fits well with what we were discussing.

“It’s not so much about sympathizing with people and making them feel better with things or with stories … it’s about connecting with people, relating…”

And more questions…..

If you could change anything, what would you change? What makes you hopeful? What are your strengths? What would you answer? How much is too much? ( This was a question added by a participant at our tea trolley at Summat New!.)

Questions added and comments shared…

What is your favourite thing about everyone in this circle? How can you be an LGBTQ rights activist? Nature or nurture? Who do you wish you had never met? I thought this might be patronising, but it wasn’t. It was actually the highlight of my evening. It’s like free therapy. It surprised me what I talked about…stuff I don’t usually share with anyone.

When you are angry, how do you express it?

( This final question…the ‘asker’ would be very interested in future responses to this question.) If you have a question do post it in replies/comments or send to us on Facebook

Thank you for reading. Peace and Love

Harehills Festival

sm Tea & Tolerance_Harehills Sept 14_Maria Spadafora (37) Tea and Tolerance is a very new Arts project. Through a merry band of gentle tea drinking and conversation, we want to find out what matters most to people. So we have had a few discussions working on our ideas and potential ways we might do this. Last sunday we decided to take the plunge and do a ‘road test’ at the Harehills Festival. We got a few funny looks manoeuvring a tea trolley loaded with an assortment of teapots from around the world. We moved very slowly round the park next to St Aidan’s Church on Roundhay Road. We managed not to break anything ( which on a hill was a mild challenge) and actually got a few offers from people wanting to buy our teapots. After a while and much clanking of pots, people did start to come up to us and ask us what we were doing…..Good question! We met many people: some were  initially intrigued with our trolley and its cumbersome and precarious journey around the paths of the park. Perhaps a metaphor for life? o we have to rush around mindlessly. Can we slow down and notice? I think we came across a little bit odd ( we are..well arn’t all humans?) but still people were happy to sit down and talk with us. Conversations were very moving. Especially, we noticed in one instance when the question ‘How much are you worth?’ was discussed. It was noted that one view is that we are all priceless. A mother who sat with us, came to a realisation that she wa in fact priceless as a mother and carer…because it made her indispensable. It felt lovely to share that moment – a person ‘getting’ their own worth. Do we often miss it?  Do we value ourselves, or others, as less than..or more than?  It was much appreciated that people that sat with us felt comfortable enough to share their thoughts with us.Thank you. Now we have broken the ice, we are looking forward to going back to Harehills and working with other groups suggested by a lovely lady we met there. If you know of groups that might benefit or want to be part of the Tea and Tolerance experience, then do get in touch. Until then here are some questions to think about…. What makes you twinkle? What makes you hopeful? Where is peace? What is going happen to our beautiful planet in your lifetime? Feel free to send us your answers or questions or …other contribution. sm Tea & Tolerance_Harehills Sept 14_Maria Spadafora (16)sm Tea & Tolerance_Harehills Sept 14_Maria Spadafora (9)