My first night away in 13 years
‘Man is nothing else but what he purposes, he exists only in so far as he realizes himself, he is therefore nothing else but the sum of his actions, nothing else but what his life is.’ (“Man Makes Himself” by Jean-Paul Sartre)
Since Steve had his stroke in 2006 I had not spent a night away from him and our girls. Since our eldest daughter was born almost 13 years earlier. I had chosen not to go away without them. The fact that I left them behind to be part of the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland (SEI) residential hints at the significance it holds for me.
As each of us arrived on a rain soaked June day, we were directed to one of the cottages where the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland team was staying. There we drank coffee and chatted while the SEI team cooked for us. It felt as though we were guests in their home and yet we felt at home; this feeling would resonate throughout the days that followed.
We had a little time to settle into our cottages where I met one of the two inspirational women with whom I would share my home. We barely knew each other but that changed so quickly. Over the following few days there was no need for polite social barriers or clever remarks to hide behind. I felt a connection to both of my housemates that should have taken years.
Our first group meeting was held in the living room where we had all been made so welcome. We sat on chairs and cushions as we munched on snacks and chattered. The introductions were warm and encouraging and set the atmosphere for an event that everyone in the room will carry with them.
We had been asked to bring an object that represented some element of why our lives had led us to this point. As we moved from person to person each spoke with eloquence born of honesty and selflessness. They told stories of grandparents who set the moral standards, sons who lit the way to a fulfilling life and strangers who called to them across thousands of miles. As I listened I realised that I had not just journeyed through the beautiful Wicklow countryside. This was a new place, a place where men and women sacrifice superficial rewards for something far more satisfying, a place that Sartre may have written about, full of individuals who are true to themselves and their path, a place where people are authentic.
After that, there were many wonderful moments as knowledge passed from one to another and songs and stories were shared. Those days changed me. I felt less alone. I knew that I had shared a magical time with extraordinary people. Those memories will remain with me as a reminder that there really is hope for a better future.