Since 2008, fewer people are able to afford this kind of training -- and the travel and living expenses involved in being away from their homes and jobs for a week. (People are also thinking more about the environmental cost of traveling so far.) And like everything else, the costs of hosting the training have kept going up.
So three years ago, I moved this annual event to a local church hall. And I started making the food myself.
It's a bit inconvenient this year, since I am also involved in mounting a murder mystery play here in Chemainus, (to raise money for our local hospital x-ray machine) as well as mounting this campaign. But I've come to love the cooking part.
When I'm making the food for a workshop, I think about the participants. Usually, I've never met them before. I may have had telephone conversations with a few, but most register by computer and we correspond by e-mail. Preparing their meals, I prepare to meet them.
Twenty years ago, when I sat on the Board of Education, I often felt like I had several thousand children. The decisions we made affected so many kids' lives and futures. I used to prepare myself before meetings by doing my homework, and reading the agenda package, of course, but also by spending time thinking about the kids and families our decisions would touch. Feeling the responsibility of that.
Now, as I prepare to possibly sit on North Cowichan Council, I spend more time thinking about my neighbours -- several thousand, all over the district, and beyond. I think about how Council's decisions, and the way they are reached, shape our lives.
Locally and as a species, we're facing increasingly urgent issues. From the environment to the economy, we have so much to figure out.
One of our most fundamental needs is respectful communication, where everyone feels important and listened to. Feeling we've been heard is crucial in building community.
The people of North Cowichan have a wealth of experience, insight and creativity -- and a vested interest in making this the best possible place to live. I want to hear their input. After all, it's their money that pays for government -- at all levels. So whenever possible, government should be responding to their needs and desires. That's what government was created for in the first place.
Tomorrow, I'm going to catch a meeting at the municipal office -- and set up for my weeklong training. I don't imagine I'll be blogging until that training's over.
On Tuesday, I'll be at the Maple Bay Community Association's all-candidates meeting. If you're there, I hope we get a chance to meet.
At the end of the day, no matter what our opinions, we're all neighbours, sharing our own versions of a common experience -- the human experience -- in this beautiful place called Cowichan. These times are calling for the best we have to offer. Let's put it out there and get through them together.