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Burlington, Vermont – July 30, 2006
The Merrymakers Caravan was greeted with the warm sunshine, lush greenery, and cool lake breezes that make Burlington a summer haven for birds of many feathers. The moment we stepped off the buses, we were welcomed with warm smiles and friendly conversations. We were parked in the perfect spot, right in the center of town at City Hall Park. Hundreds of people passed by us, took papers, and engaged us in conversation.
There was the family from Charlotte, NC, which wants to visit us in Asheville, and the young man from Burlington who had met us in Colorado and spent hours talking with Mevaser when the Caravan was there. A man stopped who had spent two weeks at our Community in Nelson two years ago. His deep interest in our life seemed to be rekindled. A man from South Africa who had met Timshal at the Phish show in Coventry a few years ago when the Peacemaker was doing first aid there, came by and stayed with us until we left. He supported us in our Open Forum. A young couple from Saratoga Springs searching for something besides the shallow, middle-class status quo, talked with many of us. Then there was the older gentleman who, like Diogenes of Sinope, was looking for some honest people. He’s been a craftsman and homeless by choice for a number of years, seeing whether anyone would actually invite him home. He left teary-eyed, saying, “I was saved in 1971 in Bakersfield, California, lived in a Jesus community for a number of years until it failed. I’ve been looking for the dream we all lost then. Is it possible I’ve found it?”
Throughout the day and into the night, our musicians played and the dancers danced, joined many times by people who had been attracted by the music. At one point, Shoresh challenged all who could hear his amplified voice to an Open Forum discussion. “Free speech is the right to say anything you want to say, even if no one else wants to hear it or agrees with you. It’s a right. You can talk about anything you want.” There were a couple of people on leashes listening to him. He said, “You can talk about why there are too many dogs, or why there aren’t enough dogs, but don’t just sit here and be quiet. Come and speak your mind.”
It started a bit slowly as a couple of brave souls joined in. Soon, however, the discussion escalated into an intense, but still respectful dialog for several hours into the night. The tent was jammed with many people who were passionately defending what they thought about such issues as women’s rights, the environment, government, and homosexuality. We were equally passionate and outspoken about what we’ve come to know. We made it clear that we were not there to try and reach some consensus, but rather to exercise our right to speak about our convictions concerning these issues, and support the right everyone else had to do the same. It exposed the shallowness of trying to merely be politically correct. At one point, a young man who was of Native American descent said, “In order to truly hear what others are saying, you have to speak less yourself and open up to what the other person is trying to say.”
Some of the younger folks that participated later admitted to some of us that they had deliberately been being pugnacious and contrary to see what kind of a reaction they could get from us. It probably could have continued all night, but we had to cut it short so we could continue our journey.
Many people thanked us for how we conducted the Open Forum, and asked when we could do it again. We all left with a renewed desire to have a presence once again in Burlington, hosting a Maté Factor or small café.
More coming soon!!!