“Only Kindness Matters” Jewel
(article written for Wholife Journal "Angels In Action" feature March/April issue 2010 )
A neatly bearded, gentle, soft-spoken, humble, yet undeniably powerful, James Folster, our featured Angel In Action, is a true example of the nature of humanitarians, or a Mystic without a Monestary as author Caroline Myss would say, that are quietly and faithfully bringing positive change and love to our world.
Growing up on a farm in central Saskatchewan, James describes his personality as a child, as painfully shy, timid, anxious and very withdrawn. His father was (still is) a musician and from the time he can remember, everyone around him drank and partied. His circle was deeply entrenched in this lifestyle – siblings, neighbours, cousins, friends, except for his Mother who didn’t drink at all.
By his early teens this was James path as well. Drugs and alcohol became an everyday habit. Loss of precious relationships, broken homes, friends and family members in jail, suicide, fatal injuries, law breaking, all ingredients in the mix.
Life for James for the next 20 or so years was one big soul-defeating, relationship destroying, body poisoning, mind numbing, life-force crushing party.
By now he was married and had two young daughters. One day, upon returning home to his family after a 3-day binge, something inside cried out for James to stop. And he stopped cold turkey.
Shortly after making the decision to give up the alcohol and drugs, James explains that he found a path to God, the Supreme Creator, and describes his spirituality as trusting his own sense of God, like a surrendering, where he asks for strength, and continues to seek answers by listening quietly, turning things over in prayer, and following this guidance.
In 2002, while sharing a meal with his dear friend Marilyn in a local diner a few days before Christmas, they observed an older gentlemen who regularly ate alone. Marilyn commented “somebody should do something for people like that at Christmas”, and then exclaimed, “hey wait a minute, we’re somebody!”
Upon that sudden inspiration, they decided to organize a Christmas dinner at the local senior citizens hall for people alone at Christmas. A church donated food, volunteers showed up, musicians came to play, and for the next 4 years it was a popular seasonal event with 15 or more people sharing Christmas dinner together, who would otherwise be alone.
A few years ago James was diagnosed with a chronic illness, Essential Tremors, which threw him into a tail spin. Unable to work, he spent the next 6 months in a deep depression, anxious and unsure of what the future held, until he choose to accept the situation and make the best of it.
The “best of it” is an understatement. This was the catalyst for a new direction on James’ path. A path now filled with inspiration, compassion and kindness. Knowing intimately what it is like to be alone, hungry and cold, he holds no judgment of where people are in life. He say’s “if you need help, you need help”. “Blaming people for their choices and situation does nothing to help them, so just help them!”
Living with a disability gave James a new perspective on life. It has opened many doors for him that he could never have imagined. He accepted an opportunity to be trained as a facilitator for a Living Well with Chronic Illness support group, a task that previously, due to low self-esteem, anxiety and shyness, would have terrified him.
Following his divine guidance, he was inspired to create a place where people living on their own, new to the area, or wanting to engage in new friendships, he organized a monthly gathering called the Adult Friendship Group in Humboldt, Saskatchewan. He is clear that this is not a dating or singles club. The Adult Friendship Group will celebrate its second year in February with a core group “regulars” from all walks of life, enjoying these casual gatherings with potluck meals, card games, movies and companionship.
A year ago, while watching a documentary on television, he learned of a woman in Nova Scotia who started dances for people with disabilities. Inspiration of the heart took hold once again and James shared this idea with a local not for profit organization. The program coordinator enthusiastically embraced his ideas, and with her support, along with the help of volunteers, local businesses, and a DJ, themed dances are now held monthly with attendance now topping 80 people per dance.
More recently, a dedicated group of community members and organizations have formed, in response to James newest calling and mission of service, a Collective Kitchen planning team. His idea is driven by his desire to see that “everyone” has access to a warm meal, in the companionship of others, and an opportunity to learn how to prepare, with assistance if required, their own nutritious meals.
A lover of animals, James shares a small acreage with 7 beloved miniature goats and 20 chickens. Caring for them ensures that he gets out of bed each day with a purpose. His generous nature is once again evident by the dozens of eggs he gives to family and friends, and the local food bank. He says if the Collective Kitchen project gets underway, he’ll raise chickens to contribute too!
On January 20, 2010, during the Humboldt & Area Community Inclusion Support Centre monthly dance, James was awarded the Partners for Rural Family Support Peace Award for 2010. The Peace Award, sponsored by SaskEnergy, is given to an individual who has shown exceptional dedication to helping the community.
Asked what brings him peace of mind, he leans back in his chair, puts his hand over his heart, and shares that when he sees people at the dances or the Friendship Group laughing, dancing, connecting and enjoying the company of others, he breathes a deep sigh of satisfaction and his heart fills with joy. “It does the heart good.”
Carol Marriott is a Certified Equine-Assisted Learning (EAL) Specialist and the “Lead Mare” at Ravenheart Farms near Humboldt, SK. For more information, workshop dates, and/or private or group sessions call (306) 682-4641, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit: www.ravenheartfarms.com and see the colour display in Wholife Journal: www.wholife.com