Amy and David are partners living in Mulhouse, France where we met over Thanksgiving dinner a few years ago. After initially bonding over ex-patriate similarities (Amy is American-born and I was living in France at the time), a friendship developed in our mutual desires to lead sustainable, conscious lives. Amy and David are both key partners in an organization called Vita’Rue 2.0. In addition to holding weekly summer festivals which showcase local artists, crafts, and food, Vita’Rue hosts workshops on a regular basis. Cooking classes with local and seasonal ingredients, café gatherings around various themes: collaging, crocheting, relaxation techniques, film nights… these are just a few of the ways they craft and cultivate community.
Why is community important? What does it bring to your life?
Amy: Connection. It brings meaning to my life- though I don’t necessarily mean that in terms of quantity- having a lot of connections- but in terms of quality. Studies consistently show that authentic relationships make us happier and healthier. I find that community gets me out of my head, opens my heart and remind me of why we’re all here: Love.
David: It meets a need to feel a sense of belonging, to feel connected. It can allow us to move away from ego and to not feel so alone when facing difficulties.
If you could share only 3 things for the rest of your life, what would they be?
A: Reading, music, love.
D: Love, knowledge, play.
What does sustainable mean to you?
A: Sustainability means that we live in a way that allows future generations to live well- that we don’t take more than our share of the world’s resources and leave the world better than we found it.
Foundation vs. decoration. Which one, when, and why?
A: Foundation is always important: to give meaning to your actions, to go beyond superficiality. However, decoration can be important because we are sensitive to beauty and harmony and it can make us more receptive.
D: They are complimentary.
Where are you the most connected?
A: When I’m on my yoga mat, writing or cooking, with people dear to me or a good book and in nature.
D: In nature.
What is the best thing about being human? …the most challenging?
A: Our capacity for altruism and creativity co-exists with our egoism and capacity to destroy. Our current system thrives on the part of us that wants more, more, more at any cost and so that is encouraged and valued. Fortunately there also exists possibilities to cultivate our innate kindness and creativity- our real challenge is to create a system that makes that a priority.
D: The best thing about being human is our resilience. Our challenge is moving away from Othering.
Home smells like…
A: Home smells like: lemons, coffee warm spices (cinnamon, cumin, ginger) and David’s neck.
D: Family. Also, Sunday night’s raclette!
Tell us more about Vita’Rue 2.0.
A: Vita’Rue 2.0 is a project within a project created by my partner, David and a friend, Stephane in 2009, both current co-presidents of the organization Elan Sportif. The organization uses sports to help kids in difficulty and they wanted to expand upon that. They decided to create a festival that was open to everyone and would include not just sports but artistic expression (crafts, music, dance), yoga, qi gong, cooking, activities for kids, places to relax and talk or read. So Vita’Rue was born.
There are 10 Sundays, every summer, in a park. Aside from this event the project has developed and a lot is going on all year-round. In 2013, the city gave us the use of a small house situated in the park: La Maison des Berges. As of today, we have nearly 20 different activities going on throughout each month, plus other events outside of the house, like Park(ing) Day.
The idea is that whatever the activity, it’s not an end goal, it’s just a means to work towards our three main objectives: promote well-being (physical, mental and social), cultivate community and encourage empowerment. There’s nothing to buy or sell- so you can leave your wallet at home. No one is paid to be there either. You can come and go as you please. We believe that everyone has something to offer, to share, to teach and in return for a place and materials, anyone can come and host an activity as long as it reinforces our objectives. It’s social activism by way of using the best in humanity: altruism, solidarity, kindness, empathy, connection and creativity.
What about your specific roles in supporting Vita’Rue 2.0?
A: There are partnerships with other organizations, the city supports us as well. We are just two of many volunteers that make this all happen- none of this would be possible without the 100 or so citizens who give their time and energy to the many facets of the project. David is involved in a lot of the administrative aspects of runnings the project. Together, we host a monthly cooking class, using seasonal vegetables. I have coordinated the volunteers who lead the cooking workshops during the festival for the past three years. Last year, I hosted a bi-monthly crochet circle as well.
We’re about to kick off our 2nd annual winter festival Arrêt Sue l’Image (“Freeze Frame”). David and I were inspired by the various “screen-free” weeks that exist and decided to use our project to create a week of activities that provide an alternative to screen-time and also invite reflection and discussions around the omnipresence of screens in our lives and the consequences of that. Being social activists who seek to build community, we’re curious about the impact that this has on the quality of our connections with others. We’re amazed to see how just a simple idea has turned into another yearly event that people are eager to participate in.
How can we create these kinds of communities on a global level?
A&D: We have a personal motto: globally pessimistic, locally optimistic. Looking at the state of things can get us down, so we wonder, “What can we do here and now to make the world a kinder, more sustainable place to live in?” [Vita’Rue 2.0] allows us to participate in small changes, at a local level. Imagine if everyone did that. Those local changes would eventually go global!
Check out the video below to have a glimpse at Vita’Rue 2.0 and conscious community in action…