Baby steps towards the "new normal"

Moving Stories of Hope and Home online back in March has not been without its challenges but, ultimately, worked better than I think any of us expected or dared to hope. The virtual space we have created has been an important one, and those of us who have felt able to engage with it have valued and appreciated it. It has been a safe space to ask questions, find out information, share stories, acknowledge struggles. A space to talk, and laugh, and occasionally cry. A space in which community has continued to be built 

We have even managed to make small forays into the other aim of our project of reaching out and sharing our stories with others: contributing to Birmingham's Migration Forum, leading a workshop at the FaithJustice festival for young adults, and sharing stories with a group of educators who have gathered on zoom to explore themes of social justice.

But for all its beauty and benefits, it hasn't been the same as gathering in person and with the gradual easing of lockdown, and the (albeit vague) guidance about groups and organisations being able to begin meeting again we were keen to explore how we could do so.

Conversations were had, a policy was written, hand sanitizer was purchased, restrictions were explained, a location in a public park selected. 

And three weeks ago we had our first face-to-face gathering for several months. The natural inclination to reach out open arms to hug was resisted, expressed instead through warm smiles. Language level was no barrier to expressing the joy of being back together. We learned the important cultural lesson that, just because the weather forecast says four days in advance that Monday will be sunny doesn't mean it actually will be: but despite the rain, and despite the restrictions, it felt good to be back together. 

Since then, a small group of us has met together each week (having learned to select the day at the last minute to get the best weather), taking the opportunity of having to be outdoors to explore some of Birmingham's many different parks and green spaces. At some point, perhaps, we'll start thinking about planning some content for these sessions. For now, we have set no agenda. We have simply walked, and talked, enjoying the possibility of spending time together: who knew that such a thing would come to feel so very precious. 

We know we are a long way from being "back to normal". We are glad to at least be here.