Story Behind Our Name

joiningthedots was conceived during a two-year journey Penny Elsley undertook during 2009-10, visiting people in isolated communities facing injustice throughout the world. The story of Penny’s journey and resulting joining of dots until today, is captured in a wonderful article by “Inspired Magazine” 

 Penny’s reflection:

From 2008-2010 I embarked on a rather unplanned but very intentional journey throughout the globe, seeking to understand more clearly what the world needs most and what my role might be in making a difference. I slept on hundreds of couches and was adopted by families everywhere, linking me to one opportunity after another. It didn’t seem to matter whether I was in 5th Ave Manhattan or a refugee camp in Palestine, the generosity I experienced as a stranger was what taught me the most about our common humanity and our potential to work together for a better world. Towards the end of this extraordinary journey I met an 80 year old man named Greg in New Mexico who said to me: ‘You’re going where the dots are not joined!’ It was not long after this that I founded joiningthedots with the intention of growing a grass-roots movement to reignite the missing connections within ourselves, our communities and to our ‘place’.


Right from the beginning of my journey people kept asking, “So what is it exactly that you are doing?” I usually gave a detailed answer but it always felt like a rather abstract and insufficient one! That was until I met Greg during my internship at the Centre for Action and Contemplation, a man of great depth and wisdom (and the best humor!). His words were such revelation to me and the clarity I had been seeking since I left Australia. He said, “You’re going where the dots are not joined…”

I’m sure he had no idea the impact his remark would have but it certainly sparked something in me…and this spark continued to build over the following days until it all unfolded, like a flood of insight! Who hasn’t spent many happy times as a child doing dot to dot pictures?!!! And in our child-like way, we were eager to see the whole picture, but we knew there were no short cuts – we had to join the dots one at a time…and with each join the picture was revealed… piece by piece. In a sense, if I knew what the end result would look like, I wouldn’t have needed to set forth on the journey.

What I began to understand that the picture comes out of the process and what I am called to do is trust the process. To simply join the dots as I respond to the daily invitation to walk in the way of love. Already I have a sense of ‘knowing’ when the dots are joined….on so many occasions I have felt deep connections with people and our stories resonated in such a way that it has left a mark.

The next part of revelation stems from an art workshop I participated in during my Internship. Our wonderful teacher, Barbara, led us through exercises that taught us how to move into the right side of our brain, which is always helpful when we want to clear some space for our inner-voice and move aside the ‘left-brain’ incessant chatter and writing of lists!!!

The exercises consisted of drawing patterns focusing on the ‘negative’, the spaces in between the outlines of the picture. It was through this experience that I began to reflect on the ‘luminal’ spaces present everywhere if we have the eyes to see… and the way we can live and be in the world when we are attentive to these spaces.

Out of this new understanding, I started seeing the gift of the ‘luminal’ spaces in my own journey. The spaces ‘in between’ the dots. This is where the real depth of living and exchange of wisdom takes place. Not at the destinations but along the untrodden paths. The spaces in between are where the opportunities for deepening the work towards social change lies. We aim to open up these spaces where meaningful encounters can occur.

Yet of course, in every new emergence we can recognize patterns and cycles of creation. If we look to the world’s First Peoples, we will notice that they have always known something of these ‘in-between’ spaces. It is certainly reflected in Australian Indigenous Art – what is amazing is that it is the spaces in-between which create the picture.


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                – Hadi (newly arrived, Refugee background)

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