I signed up for the M.A.G.I.C. Project two-day immersion course at the University of Southern Indiana (USI) not really knowing what to expect. This feeling only intensified once I walked into the class; there were people of all different ages, ethnicities, and walks of life milling around the room. We were greeted by the M.A.G.I.C. instructors (M.A.G.I.C. stands for Multi-Ability, multi-Generational, Inclusive Community) and were told to be prepared for a lot of moving around and interactive activities. I immediately felt apprehensive before class started. I am not much of an extrovert and sometimes feel anxious about conversing with people who are perfect strangers, but I was already here so I might as well find out what this class is all about. We began our journey through this class with quick introductions and meet-and-greets with others around the room and then it took off from there.
The instructors invited us to participate in a series of Liberating Structures activities that allowed us to reflect on our lives and experiences. We used a bevy of art materials and visual aids in order to illustrate our barriers and privileges that have contributed to the quality of our lives thus far. Nobody sits around and thinks to himself or herself: “What qualities make my life easier than others?”
However, in doing so, it allowed me to put my struggles and difficulties into perspective. I may struggle with issues as everyone does, but there are a lot of people that struggle with far more. We were allocated plenty of time in order to deeply reflect on each of our own lives.
After our self-reflection time was past, we were invited to divide into groups of 4 or 5 people to participate in a “Conversation Café.” I sat with 4 people I had not met or spoken to before. In our groups, we were asked to share our thoughts on our reflections with those in our group. I was hesitant to go first, thankfully someone else volunteered. As a college student, it is not a social norm to be overly open with others or to make yourself vulnerable to people you have just met. The discussion started off with each of our remarks on what we felt about the reflection activity and other fairly general conversation. However, once one person opened up about their struggles, each person after fell in line like a row of dominos. Before I knew it, I was having a heartfelt conversation with people I did not know 15 minutes prior to this activity.
I am not someone who shares intimate information with people very easily; I struggle to even have these types of conversations with my friends and family. Yet, along with my group, I found solace in perfect strangers in speaking about very personal details of my life. It was an eye-opening experience, to say the least. I would say I am someone who could be classified as skeptical or even cynical, but I felt a personal connection with others that I was not expecting to feel. Through these conversations, I found that everybody is not that different whenever you get to really know each person. I left the class with a strange, powerful feeling after all of these unexpected, moving conversations and activities. There is only one word I can use to describe why I felt so moved: it was magic.
The USI MAGIC course is a two-day immersion experience introducing participants to participatory design tools and principles for building age friendly communities. The course is open to the public will be offered November 8th and 9th, 2019. For more information and to sign up go here!