“Grab the Fish, don’t let it escape. The Encounter as a Path”
This has been the motto of the IV Spanish-Portuguese Meeting of Companions, which the institutions of the Spanish-Portuguese Federation of Curative Pedagogy and Social Therapy organize biannually, since the first meeting was held in 2014. On this occasion, being the itinerant meeting between the organizations, the organization corresponded to the Tobias Association, which, since 1997, has carried out its work in the Community of Madrid. This community of life, which welcomes about 18 people with disabilities, has already prepared this meeting for 2020 but, the situation that we have all experienced, forced them to postpone it and, fortunately, this month of June, it has taken place, between the 5th and the 9th, in a beautiful place, in the town of San Rafael (Segovia). 34 Companions attended this long-awaited event, which was surrounded by rain and storms. The water was so much needed that the Portuguese brothers brought it to us as a gift to Spain!
This life-giving water sang to different melodies: sometimes it was soft, sometimes it was in crescendo, and sometimes it looked like a drum party. There was also loud thunder and lightning struck the compound. In this summer orchestra, there was no lack of birdsong, the full moon and a beautiful sun, and some could even hear a trumpet from the sky. Who would this voice be?
On the first night, we were able to enjoy the car of the legend of Tobias, staged by the comrades of the Tobias Association. A deep silence pervaded the audience when, thanks to young Tobias’ journey, Sara was able to heal and the two began a shared journey as husband and wife. This beginning of the meeting of companions reminded us, in this beautiful image, that obstacles help us to grow, and that in reality we are not alone, although we have to take the step of accepting the accompaniment that is offered to us. While the experience of solitude is part of the biography of every human being today, hope, compassion and loving surrender are also part of it. Tobias extracts from the fish, which wants to devour him, the medicine that can cure Sara and Tobit. This is the shared message of this meeting, to bring out the human that we all carry inside, in this complex time, where things no longer seem to be what they are. How can we promote truth, well-being, peace and freedom in our immediate environment? How do we understand the need of the other? How can dialogue and consensus be fostered? The companions are aware that their communities of life are in transformation, that there are difficulties to overcome, so they set an example with their whole being. “Grab the fish, don’t let it escape.”
A first step taken at the congress was to embrace the healing forces of “me” and “you”, with each community presenting part of their daily work, sharing what they are proud to have achieved, not only for themselves, but also for others. Appreciating ourselves in our day-to-day lives, in our creative capacities, in our sincere search for our own biography created closeness and a desire to get to know each other better. Another important step took place through the transformative force of art and movement. Participants were able to participate in painting workshops, Bothmer gymnastics and rhythmic exercises. On the first day we approached through eurythmy Rudolf Steiner’s poem “In my heart lives the power of the sun” and there was also a beautiful evening of dancing with live music. In these activities and in the two excursions, to the Roman Aqueduct of Segovia and the Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso, a deep “we” began to be woven. On the last day, we went to Galapagar to visit the Artaban School. The sixth, seventh and eighth graders welcomed us with a small concert. We sang in Portuguese and Spanish and a deep joy spread through this school that welcomes children with and without intellectual disabilities. The final touch took place at Casa Hogar Tobías where they enjoyed a delicious snack before returning home.
At this meeting, we were very aware of our beloved president of the Spanish-Portuguese Federation, Fidel Ortega Dueñas, who passed the threshold just two weeks earlier, on May 13, 2023 (see obituary). I want to close this little account of our great meeting with words that I have heard him say many times:
Nature shows us that life always continues in our environment, waiting to be welcomed, making it also come out from within us as a SOCIAL-ART that fills our body, our soul and also our spirit. Our communities are characterized by finding individual well-being through the we, making inclusion in reverse its hallmark.