Shadowing Pádraig Ó Tuama: Introduction to Series
Pádraig Ó Tuama is the first person I met on the island of Ireland. That was in 2012, when I moved to Belfast for graduate school in conflict resolution and reconciliation studies. In 2015, I tried to do something nice for him after he’d left his flat for Scotland. I went around turning off the outlets in his living room and kitchen to save him a bit of money on his electric bill. I later got a text from him while I was in South Africa. Turns out, I’d turned off his refrigerator and freezer. My kindness had ruined his food supply.
Thankfully, we’re still friends. And I’m grateful that Pádraig let me shadow him the entire month of March.
Pádraig is a poet, theologian, and leader of the Corrymeela Community, Northern Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation center. For those who subscribed to Keep Watch with Me, he contributed to both the Advent and Lenten Readers, and his speaking schedule exploded after a wise and wonderful interview on Krista Tippett’s On Being program. Pádraig is the co-founder and co-host of Tenx9 in Belfast, the mothership of the monthly storytelling event I run in Nashville. He loves stories, the words that make the stories, and the stories behind the words that make the stories. His memoir In the Shelter is one of the wisest books I’ve read.
I would suggest that we both are interested and invested in the capacity of language and stories to help us all learn how to live well together. Whether he has or not, I’ve always found resonance between us, whether in our conversations over whiskey and coffee, reading his books, or considering our vocations. So last year, I asked if I could spend a month in 2018 shadowing him and soaking up whatever learning I could.
From March 1-April 2, I followed Pádraig around—in Belfast, Dublin, Glasgow, Coventry, and more. I sat in on meetings; listened to (many) poetry readings; helped organize Carafest, Corrymeela’s Easter festival; attended community seminars; and more. Over the next few weeks, I am going to share ten insights (and maybe a poem or two) with you from this time with Pádraig. They will be short, I promise. No more than 400 words each. You’ll get them on Mondays and Fridays.
Thanks again to Pádraig for putting up with me for that month. And this time, I left his outlets alone.