By Lynda Shadbolt
Sometimes when I write a story I worry I won’t do it justice. So I take a deep breath and carry on. I imagine myself being guided by love and trust that I will find the words. This is a story about so many things. Love. Friendship. A lifetime of dedicated work. History. Celebration. The church. And really good treats and music.
On Aug. 7, I had the pleasure of attending a book launch at the Castle Antique Cafe. I was there because my good friend Jim Blake had invited me. He had written a book called And Then a Door Opened about the life of his good friend, Norm Thomas. Norm has led a full, interesting and challenging life as a United Church Minister. His story spans 90 years, and takes the reader across our great country and through the history of his relationship to the United Church. I also had a personal connection to the book because my step father-in-law (Bob Ballantyne), is in the book and is part of the story. Approximately 50 people gathered for the launch. It was a beautiful community event.
As Jim and Norm shared their stories of writing the book together, and read passages from the book (which made the audience laugh out loud numerous times) I could see we were witnessing a beautiful friendship between two storytellers and the immense respect and love they have for each other. Norm was ordained as a United Church Minister in 1959 and he lived in 24 communities from Malpeque, P.E.I to Alberni, B.C. before he arrived in Minden at the age of 72.
And Then a Door Opened is the story of Norm’s extraordinary life and his involvement in the communities he lived in as he worked his way across this great country of ours. I’m currently reading the book and as Jim writes in the forward “this process has taken me from the Protestant Reformation in Great Britain to coal mining in Cape Breton, from car manufacturing in Windsor, Ontario, to community activism is Toronto, from the oil boom in Alberta to the ordination of LGBTQ+ ministers, from the creation of a UNESCO biosphere to the civil war in Nicaragua and so much more”.
It is the story of Norm, who walked through many doors in his career, to build relationships and work for change in all the communities he lived in. Prior to the book launch I had never met Norm but when I went up to introduce myself he treated me like we were old friends. His warmth and kindness jumped right out of his heart and into mine. I’m always contemplating how kindness, compassion and friendliness make a difference in every situation and circumstance. Like Norm, we all have interesting lives and we each have an important role to play in our families, with our friends in our work, our community and for the planet. We all make a difference. We all have a story to tell. And Then a Door Opened is available at our local library.