Into The Unknown


The first article in our Reflection Blog Series.

Reflecting is an integral and indispensable part of learning and education. Our Reflection Blog provides a more personal look at JBHF by exploring the individual journeys made by our staff, our members and our volunteers.

True education is a kind of never ending story — a matter of continual beginnings, of habitual fresh starts,of persistent newness.
— J.R.R. Tolkien

Above is a picture of how I felt when asked to join the John Brown Heritage Foundation, an organization that is embarking on the road from vision to implementation. I didn’t feel this way solely because I was starting a new job, but because I was joining JBHF at the beginning of their own quest as a heritage organization. With that comes the excitement of an uncharted adventure - and the unavoidable awareness of everything you don’t know.

Although our organization’s unknowns are vastly different than those of Bilbo Baggins (I am told there won’t be any dragons), I can relate to the anxiety of beginning An Unexpected Journey where success is undetermined. That thought could be completely overwhelming and terrifying if I wasn’t working with people who choose to see the journey into the unknown as an invaluable learning experience. This not only helps me face things that come up in the the foundation, but to apply that learning to my own personal journey into the unknown.

Walking tour of the St. Catharines Heritage Corridor with Brian Narhi and Franklin Vagnone

Creating an environment where moments of uncertainty are embraced, not feared or avoided, has been, in my opinion, the organization's greatest asset so far. It has established from the start a healthy awareness that what you don’t know is vastly different from what you can’t learn and do. Given that JBHF is traversing a road with no linear or set path from A to B, their enthusiasm to learn and grow encourages innovation, collaboration and the creative thinking required to forge ahead. The eagerness to discover the unknowns and where they may lead, is the not-so-secret ingredient which I believe will allow JBHF to achieve success and avoid frustration.

I became aware of this philosophical approach very early on in my time with them. Our initial introduction came when I was recommended to help with a zoning project. Admittedly, although I was eager, I didn’t know much about city zoning or business reporting at the time, making it hard not to anticipate the dreaded job rejection. As I sat for my initial interview, however, rather than immediately addressing my skills in relation to the task, the administrators initiated a discussion about my interest in and ideas about heritage. They asked about my past involvements, my future hopes and my passions. They weren’t just looking for people who could do a job but for people that were eager to grow with the organization, which they viewed as crucial for long term success. When at last we addressed my lack of proper reporting technique, they were more than happy to teach me, considering it part of their educational mandate to do so whenever possible. Essentially, JBHF placed the most significant value on my enthusiasm, my ideas, and my willingness and capacity to learn.

Planning for the April 2017 Attic Floor Restoration Project

Being taught to seek opportunities when faced with areas of unfamiliarity, is enriching and feels like a thousand doors being opened instead of a thousand doors being closed. It regularly leads me to new perspectives, discoveries, ideas, and people. It’s a fulfilling feeling and one that I am excited  to share with others. By keeping education at it’s core, JBHF’s goal is to invite the local community into their process, to learn and grow together, and to continue to discover and foster the myriad of benefits our heritage sites can offer.

Our ongoing outreach will provide new opportunities for such growth in the future. Just as the details of the physical components of The Brown Homestead hold the keys to understanding the site’s story on one level, the multifaceted interests of the local and heritage communities will combine to help JBHF know how to tell those stories.

The Journey has really only just begun, and it is one that will, hopefully, never truly end. The Foundation will find its way to exciting and interesting places along the way, that I am sure will inspire further growth and development, especially if we continue to view the great unknown as a treasure trove of possibility.

Theresa Felicetti
Project Coordinator