Building community, one conversation at a time

Taking the first step—reaching out—can be full of promise and wonder

This Wednesday, I’ll be publishing the conversation I had just a few days ago with Chief Joanne Rogers, the first woman leader of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation.

It’s part of the weekly podcast, “Spotlight, with J.D. Booth,” that I’ve been doing since January 2017 and, like a great many of the 50+ conversations I’ve had, I came away with a sense of fulfillment, having discovered something of what motivates one of the most influential public figures in the region.

It had taken more than a year from the first time I had met Chief Rogers, the occasion being her speaking at the 2017 Annual General Meeting of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce.

I had just started Spotlight and was looking for “interesting people” to connect with as a guest and when I approached her, she was receptive to the idea, although admittedly I didn’t give her much of an explanation behind the request, only that I’d started a podcast. But I did realize, having approached many people over a career in business journalism, that it would be me that would have to make the follow-up.

I’m so glad it did, although I wish it had not taken more than a year.

When we sat down in the Chambers where the leaders of Aamjiwnaang meet, we talked about the Chief’s background, how she has spent all her life in the community and how she is deeply committed to serving her people.

As part of the conversation, I made it clear that it’s the hope of Lambton Shield that a relationship with the First Nation could begin to take shape, although I’m not entirely sure what that will mean, which is part of the “magic” of how relationships build in the first place.

As I’ve said since I began this endeavour, it’s my desire to leave this place in better shape than it was when my family arrived in 1985. And by telling the stories of people around us, I believe we become stronger, building on each other’s strengths.

Certainly, Lambton Shield may have more opportunities to do this than others, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that we all—in our personal and work lives—can make our own opportunities, to ask questions and to hear each other, to learn about the things that are important to those with whom we connect, and to build one another up in the process.

When I asked Chief Rogers toward the end of our conversation what people in our community—those living beyond the borders of Aamjiwnaang—what she’d like the listeners of the podcast to do when it comes to building relationships, her answer was illuminating.

“Do what you did. Reach out.”

Wise words indeed.

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