Words of Welcome for VEC’s 3rd Anniversary
Village Exchange Center’s 3rd Anniversary Celebration
The following content was originally given as the opening speech at our Anniversary event.
January 22, 2020
We are living in critical, insecure times, environmentally, socially, and politically, and one of our larger frustrations is not having adequate narratives to comprehend the whole of this historical moment. Narratives provide directions forward for the future, hence our anxiety.
But while we may not have the narratives today there are solid reasons for hope.
There is a Russian saying that “Beauty will save the world.” Far from Romantic fluff, this is a profound, useful idea for us today.
Beauty is the coming together of forms, across all human experience, that are deeply satisfying to the human spirit, to our well-being. Aesthetic experience is the meeting of my most profound longing answered in the abundant relationships of the world. This is critical to name, because where we do not have adequate stories to orient us, we nevertheless have the main characters who will shape the story. What we find beautiful is beyond our willing, beyond our intellect, politics, beyond our determinations. And it touches the whole of us, emotional, intellectual, and relational. So, we can trust what we find beautiful; it is trustworthy for our well-being and our future. Where we gaze on beauty, we are always on the right track because beauty is always attended in some way by truth and goodness.
Where the perception of Beauty is happening, bricks are being laid toward an emerging path for future. A small personal example: my mother emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico when she was sixteen. Out of a desire to succeed, and out of shame, my mom basically disowned her Hispanic heritage and sought to shake her accent, totally adopt American dress. We didn’t even have Mexican food in the home. I think my chile addiction is a compensation for repressions. In conversations with our refugee and immigrant friends and partners today, I don’t hear the same disaffection with their cultures. Just the
opposite. The Kachin traditional cultural dance we just enjoyed happened because Pr. Naw Bawk asked us if his community could dance for us. There is a desire to keep cultural values and expressions, cultural identity, throughout the work of social integration. That’s a good thing, a historical shift, that I think is part of a growing sense of global citizenship which will, no doubt, inform our decisions of living together into the future. That’s a beautiful thing to behold.
So while we may become discouraged as we follow trends, let us remind ourselves that there are many other perhaps less immediately evident trends that are at work poising us for new, responsive ways of doing things. We may not have the large narrative, but we can name the good things happening in our midst, we can take comfort where we see beauty coming together.
When Amanda and I first conceived the Village Exchange Center we committed ourselves to nurture a culture of belonging. Wherever any of us experience well-being and happiness there is some backdrop experience of belonging. This culture of belonging is multi-faceted and is made up of what we’ve identified as continuum of relationship experiences. Especially important are the relationships between older, hosting Americans, and newer, recently arrived Americans. These are: Exposure, Encounter, Exchange, and Celebration. Exposure is being in the same room with the other. Encounter looks into the face of another. Exchange is the happening of mutuality and reciprocity. Celebration is the affirmation of the other, as other, an other to whom I belong. Each of these aspects of relationship are happening every day at the Village Exchange Center in sometimes messy and surprising ways, but happening they are. We are grateful for this beautiful thing. And we are grateful for our beautiful friends and partners. Tonight, at the culmination of the relationship spectrum, we celebrate. Let’s enjoy and have fun.
Rev. Marcel Narucki
Village Exchange Center
Director of Multi-Faith Services and Co-Founder
January 22, 2020