I belong to many different communities.
My work community - where we are all connected by the desire to make a difference in people's lives as well as, let's be honest here, the need for a regular paycheque.
My curling community - where we are all connected by the Friday night ritual of not really caring whether we win or lose because winning comes with bragging rights and losing means free drinks. So really, it's win/win.
My diabetes community - where we are all connected by our faulty pancreases (pancrei?) and our twisted desire to laugh about the craziness of it all.
My Hunger Games, Harry Potter and Divergent community - where we plan our movie dates months in advance and get way more excited than we should with each release.
My Outlander community - where we talk about each character as if they were real, where we discuss the most insignificant little details and laugh our heads off at the shenanigans that a bunch of Scottish folk get up to.
My golf girlfriends community. My triathlon community. My Masters swim community.
Last week I was sent to an all-day session for work...on a Friday no less. I didn't know much about it other than it was to learn more about Ontario's French Language Services Act. I am responsible for ensuring that our agency meets all of the requirements of the FLSA so I get sent to these sorts of things.
The meetings usually involve a bunch of mostly English-speaking people who talk about how they are struggling to make sure that their agency provides French-language services when no one at the agency speaks French.
This meeting seemed a little more hard-core right from the get go. The agenda was sent in French. And only in French. It informed us that we would be working in teams, doing ice breakers and team challenges...and learning all about the FLSA. In French.
I showed up feeling a little nervous as I wondered if my French would hold up. I quickly realized that the people I sat with were wondering the same thing. We had all learned French as young children but lost a lot of our vocabulary simple from lack of use. There never seems to be anyone to speak French with in our daily lives.
We started off speaking English at our table but, once we realized that we were encouraged to speak French, that we were supported to speak French and that everyone else's French sounded a lot like ours, we jumped right in and fumbled our way through the day.
I laughed as people used expressions I had not heard since high school. I stumbled over words but managed to get my point across anyway. The memory floodgates opened and I felt a sense of kinship with a roomful of strangers who had nothing in common other than a language that they rarely spoke. And I realized how much I missed being part of a Franco-Ontarien community. How isolated I sometimes felt in a primarily English world and how wonderful it felt to flex my French muscles after so many years of disuse.
I spoke French for 7 hours that day. I took notes in French. I wrote down expressions that I didn't want to forget. I giggled at French jokes and felt proud to be Canadienne et francophone.
They asked us if we would be interested in arranging regular times for everyone to get together and just speak French. I, who showed up not looking forward to the day, happily raised my hand. Sign me up!