I’m a Lane Covian but every so often, on average three dinners of the year, I’m a Killaran at Lees Fortuna Court located in Crows Nest.

What is a Killaran you ask?

As far as I know, none of us who call ourselves Killarans are actually from the suburb Killara on the North Shore. The tribe gets its name from the place, Killara Golf Club. The legend has it that the founder Chris’s family would take his grandmother there for dinner where a painting of a nude hung on the wall. Chris, now affectionately known as “The Chief”, would sit there and think about the image and what the story was. His curiosity hooked his close mates and given our innate human need to sit around a fire (or delicious Chinese food) to exchange stories, people kept coming back for more and I was fortunate enough to get pulled into the mix. The Killaran tribe has been going strong since 2007, almost 15 years.

I recently realised that I’d been a Killaran for a little over six years when I looked at fellow Killaran Greg’s online archive of his own Killara stories. Six years is a very long time these days. To put it in context, I haven’t held a job for more than a year in Australia, or stayed in the same suburb for more than four years.

At the heart of it, Killara Dinners pose an opportunity for would-be writers to challenge themselves and write a story to be shared among a few other story enthusiasts. Anyone intending to attend a Killara Dinner should be prepared to write a maximum 1500 word story inspired by a photograph. These stories are submitted anonymously at a deadline and judged by the other members. It goes without saying voting for one’s own story is not allowed. There are at least five categories besides the best overall story. If a particular story would be fit for the big screen, the photo has been used in a clever way, then the writer will be commended for this by winning a box of chocolates. It’s not rare for a particularly strong entry to win several categories as Killaran Greg has shown us on a few occasions. The main prize is an Oscar-like mini statue to take to one’s home and put on display as a proof of storytelling prowess.

What is it that keeps me coming to the table as a Killaran, you may wonder. It is the same thing that has me showing up to Sunday dinners every week with my Australian family – I now feel I can bring all of me, the whole person to this table and I am seen and heard.

Though it is human to not always come across the way one intended.

There was a meeting over Zoom where I experienced a failure to communicate. This was partially a technical problem, not having the Audio Visual equipment on my end. There was also the human component as to why I didn’t get the pause I was seeking when I shared that I was seeking some comfort after bearing witness to the passing of a man. The reluctance to acknowledge death and grieving as a part of life and the human experience is the norm. Most people are very uncomfortable with this content.

“A mature man, a mature woman, knows how to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other and when those two are together, now we’re in the prayer of life.” ~ Francis Weller

It’s safe to say that all of us are familiar with the feeling of going to our family, tribe or workplace with an expectation only to witness that our emotional need isn’t met immediately. We may then resort to cutting ourselves off, which only confirms what we’ve felt all along, we don’t belong.

Fortunately, my experience has been that when I open to the Killarans, we seek to understand. I think there are great lessons in managing diversity that we can learn from our tiny village of storytellers.

The ABCs when it comes to keeping people together and in harmony are:

Affirmation

This is another word for acknowledging that people have feelings.

“You’re treating me unfairly and you’re a bully!” When a conscientious person hears something like this, their first reaction might be to defend their view or show scientific or data evidence to convince the other that there’s nothing unfair. What if we don’t do that but instead show the person we are seeing them and hearing them?

“I understand that you feel bullied and there’s unfair treatment. Can you tell me more about this?”

Now that’s the way to get somewhere. Open a line of communication and this will drive closeness if one remains present, that is conscious.

”One of your stories comforted me at a time of loss, a death, this past week…”

“Sorry about your loss.”

Belonging

We all need a sense of belonging somewhere and sadly with so many families split up, it’s not always with our families. With workplaces struggling, teams are also breaking up and we are losing the places where we belong to where we contribute.

In a time like this, a group where one shares their gift, be it for writing, painting, poetry, dancing, is invaluable. This is a human need that The Killaran village has been meeting for me and I thank The Chief and Martine and all who show up.

Connection

Sometimes connection looks like Chinese food, wine, a cup of coffee or tea shared with friends. Connection is even more meaningful if there’s collaboration involved and it brings forth good stories on and off record. This is what happens at every meeting. I should mention, I don’t consider competition one of the ABCs, though it is a nice cherry on top, or a fortune cookie message (in bed… Oh, you’ll see what I mean if you come along to a meeting), to close a session.

Over to you…

Have you started or been a part of a tribe of people passionate about the same thing? How has that experience enriched your life?