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The Caravan, Year 2 - Part 2: Nashville, DC and Gettysburg

Wheeeew! I am currently in Asheville, NC, taking a much-needed break from the road (I learned from last year that this project needs a proper break in the middle of it) and I am going to try my best to encapsulate the three massive, miraculous weeks we just had on The Caravan in Nashville, DC and Gettysburg! Thanks for checking in on the journey!


(WANT TO SUPPORT THE JOURNEY? If you'd like to donate toward our cause, we are accepting donations via Paypal and Venmo here.)

 

Nashville, Tennessee- Elevation Central Community Faire & People Loving Nashville



For many years, Nashville has felt like a second home to me, and a big part of that feeling comes from Elevation Central and the friends I've made there over the years. Elevation Central is a wellness center that is owned and operated by my friend Christy Lynn Hicks in Mount Juliet, about 20 miles outside the city. The property is a mecca where spiritual community gathers to learn, share, connect and play.


Christy invited us to host a Human Library as part of her quarterly community gathering at the property, honoring the Summer Solstice, and although it rained the day of the event, we held a really beautiful space indoors for folks to learn about ways of life and lived experiences that they normally wouldn't have access to. (Thank you to all of our Books and Readers who came out to engage in dialogue with each other!)


That evening, we went out to the Yoga Barn for what became a wild, barefoot-in-the-grass, screaming-in-the-rain ecstatic dance lead by Christy, followed by heartfelt live music from visiting and local musicians. (Thank you Christy for hosting us, and to everyone who offered their talents and service to the event!)


Our service project in Nashville was volunteering at a food pantry and distribution event with a local organization called People Loving Nashville. We were all deeply impressed by the way the team at People Loving Nashville not only very effectively and efficiently loaded in their food donations at the pantry, but also how personally and compassionately they engaged with the community in the transitional housing unit that we all served.


The most impactful moment for me came at the end of the food distribution, when the team gathered around the back of the delivery truck to share the impact of their experience, and also talk about what they learned in connecting with the community. They gave an update on how each member of the transitional community was doing and what they needed. Then they brainstormed how they could help them the following week.


It was moving to see people so invested in the ongoing wellbeing of those in need. It's a model of care that I'll remember going forward (thank you People Loving Nashville for welcoming us!)


 

Washington, D.C. - Drum Circle, Street Outreach, Sikh Temple Visit, Human Library & Capitol Fireworks! -


Our time in Washington, D.C. (and nearby suburb Fairfax, VA) was one of the most fruitful in both years of this project.


The success of the weekend was largely due to our two lead organizers Sahiba Rathore and Shawn Faull, who brought together their many intersecting communities for some really impactful and fun programming over 4th of July weekend (thank you Sahiba and Shawn for all of the work and hours you put into making The D.C. Outpost so strong!!!)


On Thursday we were welcomed by Sahiba and Shawn's mom, the inimitable and iconic "Bibiji" (Bibi Amarjit Kaur) who hosted us for a delicious home-cooked Indian meal and East-meets-West music jam at her house. Bibi Amarjit is the worship leader at the Sikh Temple Raj Khalsa Gurudwara, and she shared with us some traditional Sikh hymns, alongside two family friends, Preetinder and Saminder Singh Dhindsa. These two talented brothers, who play the classical Indian instruments taus, dilruba and tablas, gave us insights into Indian classical music and its deep spiritual and emotional intention. Through the course of the night we laughed, jammed, told stories and shared songs, and by the end, we were parting ways as friends. (Thank you Bibi Amarjit, Masi, Sami, Preet, Sonny, Ricky, Anna, and everyone in the family who welcomed us as family!)


Friday night we were the guests of honor at the NoVa Drum Circle Community's drum circle, where the community had prepared for our arrival by building a massive effigy in the center of the drum circle. They'd invited me to create a heart for the effigy, in honor of the heart-driven intention of The Caravan. At the beginning of the event, I raised the heart (pictured above) and shared our mission, thanking them for so warmly and generously welcoming us into their sacred space. The rest of the night our communities combined, drumming intently and intensely with every type of instrument, beating together in harmonic, rhythmic union (thank you NoVa Drum Circle Community, Shunka, Sarah, Dean and the entire crew for honoring us and welcoming us!)


Saturday we made our way to Downtown D.C. with food we'd prepared in Sahiba's kitchen the day before, and within just a few minutes our team had handed out nearly 100 masala wraps and bottles of water to people in need on the streets. Our goal was to create connection, to honor one another's dignity by sharing names, asking questions, and having conversations with the community we came to serve.


After our food distribution, we walked to the Capitol Building and took it in. I was in awe of this place where Democracy is practiced and maintained each day for the benefit of our nation. I couldn't help but remember the sight of the insurrectionists who'd broken in and vandalized it years before.


Later that night we returned to Fairfax for our community & bridge-building event at Siri Om Yoga, where we partnered with community leader and Yoga teacher, Siri Om at her gorgeous studio. Together we lead a night of connection and greater understanding, which began with a Yoga practice lead by Siri Om, followed by facilitated conversations over dinner. The participants in the event were diverse in age, background and beliefs, and our main focus of discussion was celebrating and honoring that which was different between us, while searching for and acknowledging our common ground. At the end of the night, my friend Mike Messer performed original acoustic music, as well as Bibi Amarjit and I (thank you Siri Om, Mike, Bibi Amarjit and all the friends who volunteered to make this event possible!)


Sunday, our service continued at the Sikh Temple Raj Khalsa Gurudwara, where we dressed in Indian garb lent to us by Sahiba and Shawn, and learned about Sikh history, tradition, and spiritual practice. We even got to sit in and participate in the Sunday service, where Bibi Amarjit lead the music, and Saminder joined to play tabla.


We were then invited to help serve Langar, a traditional vegan meal created by the community and served to all who enter regardless of their background or class. This was by far one of my favorite experiences I've had during The Caravan, because it represented to me a true immersion into another culture, and it gave us the opportunity to really try and understand people whose lives were different than ours. The whole community was friendly and inclusive, and they guided us through the morning as welcomed guests.


That evening we returned to Downtown D.C. for our final community event, called "Sunday Love" at Flash D.C., a hub for music-lovers and Burners in D.C. We were invited to facilitate a community wellness class and Human Library for the hundreds of attendees that day. I was grateful for the way the participants were eager to dive in with our Human Books.


Our final major day was spent on 4th of July in Downtown D.C. where we got to watch the 4th of July parade and fireworks, featuring visiting marching bands from around the country, and local civic organizations. In the evening we saw gorgeous fireworks over the Lincoln Memorial and National Mall. It felt incredibly resonant to celebrate the nation's birthday in the capitol, with our friends from around the country and around D.C. who'd come together to serve and understand one another over the previous weekend (thank you to all of my friends who flew in from around the country to co-create the events together and make life-long memories!)


 

Gettysburg, PA- Braver Angels National Convention-



The end of Part 2 of the journey brought me North to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where I was a delegate and scholarship recipient for the Braver Angels National Convention.


If you don't know about Braver Angels, it's a national organization working to address the increasing toxic polarization in our country and lead a movement for civic renewal. It features civic leaders and citizens from all over the country, from all across the political spectrum, working together toward a vision of a country where we can disagree productively and collaborate for the benefit of all.


The days of the convention were packed with inspiring keynote speeches, informative breakout sessions, fun networking and social activities and a lot more.


I was honored to be chosen to participate in two performing arts programs over the week. The first was a devised play called "Four Score" where I was featured as an actor, and the second program was a songwriting program where I joined with people from different political views to co-write songs together on national themes that we then performed in the final concert for the entire convention. (Thank you Micah, Cameron, John, Eric and the entire Braver Angels Music Team, as well as Mark and the entire theater team for inviting me to participate!)


AND- on top of that, one of my songs was chosen as a winner for their national songwriting competition! So I got to perform my song, "Together, We Will Rise" for the convention of 600 delegates alongside some of my friends in Braver Angels.


There's so much to say about this convention and what I got from it. It was uplifting to be amongst so many other people working toward the same mission that activates The Caravan. It was reassuring to get to connect with people who hold very different political views than mine, to share ideas and affirm one another's dignity and value. It was igniting to vote on the mission for our movement for civic renewal together at the end of the week. I am so glad and grateful for the experience.


Before I left Gettysburg, I visited the Civil War battlefield, now lined with cannons and plaques honoring all the lives lost in that bloody war. It reminded me of the stakes we face in this moment; how easily it can all devolve.


Once again, we face a time where factions battle one another, families are divided and our nation feels torn apart. My greatest hope is that the work that Braver Angels, The Caravan, and The Human Library are doing will help us to remember each other's humanity and dignity so we can prevent something like the Civil War from ever happening again...

 

Closing of Part 2...


Tomorrow I invest in some self-care for body, mind and spirit as an ambassador for The Caraavan at the Love, Shine, Play Festival in Asheville, before returning to the road for our final segment of this journey, including community partnerships with our friends in Santa Fe and Grand Junction.


THANK YOU all (and anyone I forgot) for the ways you've given to this project so far. I am very much aware that this project is only possible through the donations, time, energy, space and care that we all contribute collectively. I am so proud to lead this team across the country, building coalitions, community and compassion together.


(WANT TO SUPPORT THE JOURNEY? If you'd like to donate toward our cause, we are accepting donations via Paypal and Venmo here.)


Yours in service,


Ben Caron



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