New York Encounter #WhereverYouLive
Can New York Encounter still be an "encounter" over Zoom? Can what seems impossible, but is most desirable, become reality? Elisa wanted to find out.
The New York Encounter, an annual three-day public cultural event in the heart of New York City has always been in person. Thousands of people from all around North America and the world usually go to New York to attend conferences over a weekend. This year, it was not possible because of the Covid pandemic. So, the organizers decided to embrace the challenge and organized it virtually.
In October and November, the organizers of the Encounter had a call with a few friends around the US, that I attended. They wanted to make sure that the life of the Encounter could be shown and seen in this new online format; the Encounter in fact is not just a set of conferences but a unique occasion for encountering old and new friends, the Encounter is a life.
Their question became mine: "How to show the life around the Encounter?”
Trying to answering to this question we came up with two ideas:
The fact that the Encounter was not limited to a location this year could be a richness and a unique occasion: any friend in any place could contribute to these conferences remotely with events organized locally and available globally.
Friends of the Encounter could interview people from all over the world (the #whereveryoulive interviews). At the core of these interviews is the Encounter’s theme, “When Reality Hits” (a new humanity and lessons learned). In fact, we thought, "If you don’t go to the New York Encounter, the New York Encounter comes to your place.”
I was so curious about this novelty that I gave my availability to help and to collect local proposals. What did I have in mind? For certain, nothing of what actually happened. Reality surprised me and I was overwhelmed by the responses we received: a lot of friends wanted to participate in the Encounter with local proposals.
It was unexpected to see in the "mini-encounters" people sharing deep questions with strangers that fostered dialogues continuing even after the encounter.
It was unexpected to see fifteen to twenty witnesses of friends all around US (#whereveryoulive) sharing their exceptional humanity provoked in front of the pandemic, friends moved for being interviewed and for being looked at with "a new and loving gaze" by the interviewer.
I did not expect to see in the "mini encounter" organized by the Ergon Professional Hub (a job mentorship network) the friendship between mentors and mentees, which goes beyond simple help with finding a job.
It was impressive to see the singing evening: a way to stay together where you feel part of a greater family, where you feel "at home," staying with friends that you haven’t seen for a while but with whom you share the same experience of life, for which you rejoice.
And then the in-person local events. . . . In Broomfield, just to name one, seventy people gathered. "We wanted to take the occasion of the encounter to propose culture as Giussani taught us," John said. "We wanted to do it and to do it well. Even if it was just for the sixteen of us that were organizing it, we wanted to do something beautiful. We were free from worrying about the number of attendees, from our success--we just wanted to make it special for ourselves. If it was special for us, it would be special for others as well."
And this is what happened, in all the details: from the tasty and beautiful monodose meals prepared for all the attendees to the music played live by a pianist, from the tablecloths to the flyers that explained what the movement of Communion and Liberation is, from the ushers that were welcoming people to the table with the books proposed by the movement....
This is exactly how the NYE started!! Are there new local beginnings??
"Thank you for being so welcoming with me and people that you don't know," said a woman in a Seattle Happy Hour.
"Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I'm grateful, more than anything, for the opportunity of sharing my experience and the greatest Love of all, shown through the faces of my friends," said a speaker in a "mini encounter."
"I'm so grateful that finally I can participate in the NYE. It was never possible for me to travel to New York, but this year I can finally participate--it will be the first Encounter of my life" said many many people....
"I was not expecting anything but a series of talks on Zoom, but a life happened, the charism of Communion and Liberation happened" said Mark.
In the end, the weekend was a unique way to be together with old and new friends (from all over the world) as well as with our families (both within or outside the Movement of Communion and Liberation).
What we thought would have been impossible but was most desirable became a reality. With this New York Encounter I understood one thing: reality goes beyond my imagination and surprises me and even the desires that seem impossible to be realized have an answer.
Elisa, Los Angeles, California