The OPU column is written by Jack Bloomfield, a partner in the creation of ONE PLANET UNITED. Jack also serves as the organization's Executive Director. Many of the columns have been the inspiration for the programs, resources, designs and slogans that have been created.
  
This column appears bi-monthly in the Coral Springs "Forum" and monthly in "The Parklander" magazine. It also appears periodically in the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel newspaper Community News section, assorted other South Florida publications and is distributed by email across the United States. You can register to receive each column via email by signing up on our mailing list on the homepage.
  
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"Once We Were Strangers"


Less than one week previous, we were five strangers joined together at a Tennessee retreat in search of a personal and spiritual growth experience. We were a very diverse group participating in a 4 ˝ day experiential Equine Therapy program who were using this opportunity to look deeper into our lives and find new ways to grow in self knowledge, leadership, team building, relationship skills and spirituality.

Upon our arrival at the center, we were met by the group facilitator who invited us to introduce ourselves to the others, share where we were from, and describe what it was that we were hoping to gain by being a part of the program. The nervousness was evident as each participant shared where they were from and what it was that brought them to this beautiful mountain setting 50 miles northwest of Nashville.

Our group was made up of a young twenty something girl from south Texas who was there to begin to break free from the expectations of her parents. She was headed to New York City in a few months to begin her adult life and was searching for greater tools to break the strong parental hold her parents had over her. Then there was a young woman in her early thirties from a more western part of Texas who was yearning to break free from self defeating behaviors that were stifling the possibility of her having a meaningful and long lasting relationship. Our next group member was a middle aged mother of three from Alabama. She was trying to find deeper strength to endure the heartbreak of her troubled marriage that was being fueled by her husband’s addiction. The fourth member of our group was a Native American Indian from South Dakota in her mid fifties who had experienced intense trauma as a small child which was seriously affecting her ability to life a life free from the past. And finally, there was me. I was the only male member of this group of strangers who was seeking some rest and relaxation but also in search of a deeper growth experience through experiential therapy and spiritual connection.

So how was it when our five day program came to an end and the shuttle dropped us off at the airport, saying good-bye felt as if we were people who been close family for a lifetime? I believe it was because our human hearts had the opportunity to meet. It gave us the opportunity to build a deep love for one another in only a few days. Through sharing openly with one another throughout the week about our life journey, the joys and pain, and our hopes and dreams for the future, we were able to build a deep bond with one another in a very short period of time.

As we were saying our goodbyes waiting for our departing flights it came to my mind that this chance meeting and eventual heart connection that I had just experienced would likely be possible with any five people who were passing through the airport. I realized that if you put any group of human beings together and gave them an opportunity to hear and learn about each others life stories, the same bond would almost be guaranteed to happen. I realized that when human hearts meet, a deep love and respect is born inside.

When I found myself alone again being the last to catch their flight home, I looked at every passing individual and realized that I was seeing them with new eyes. I silently said to myself that any of these people could have attended this experiential workshop with me and that I could learn to love each of them as well if I had the opportunity to hear their life story. I became overwhelmed with the thought that I was not looking at them as strangers as I normally would but as heart felt friends who I have just not had the opportunity to meet yet. Peace out.

Note: The Equine Experiential Program is one of many personal growth programs offered by ONSITE Workshops; an organization dedicated to helping people re-discover themselves and their relationships. For more information regarding programs at Onsite, visit: www.onsiteworkshops.com

    
Jack Bloomfield is the co-founder and executive director of One Planet United, Inc., a non profit 501(c)3 organization.

One Planet United's mission statement is: To bring unity and understanding to all people through experiential and educational programs, projects and resources.
    

    
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