Everything is different; and likely some things will never be the same around here again. This column is generally about what’s hard and what’s wonderful about living here, and I guess this week is no exception, but there are also many many moments of normalcy throughout the day — along with moments of extreme emotions and beautifully tender care.
Christina here. We have finished the first week of our annual retreat and are about to embark on the second. Normally, this is a time when we come together to make some decisions, to talk about big questions, and to have fun together. As a member of the retreat planning committee, I have spent many hours over the past few months planning these weeks by arranging meals, childcare, meeting topics, and fun events.
Two weeks ago, we realized that we weren’t going to have retreat as planned. We made the decision to drop all of the potentially divisive topics and added multiple sessions for sharing feelings and needs around what is going on, and for talking about some potential strategies for getting those needs met.
I know that it is a hippie stereotype that we sit around and talk about feelings for hours, but I see the work that we have done thus far as a way of laying a foundation for the likely much harder work that is to come in the future.
What I have experienced is that when I sit in a room with other people and talk about what I am feeling and what I need, and when I listen to others share as well, I realize that people are the same. I might be feeling sad and angry and scared for very different reasons than you, but the fact that we share those same feelings brings us together. You might have completely different life experiences than I do, and you might think that we see the world in completely different ways, but we all share the same needs. We both need security and compassion. We both need to feel seen, heard, and understood. We both need connection and love. When we hear that from each other we come together, instead of splitting apart.
As hard as it can be to witness another’s suffering, I really consider it a gift when a friend or neighbor shares their pain with me. It means that they trust me enough to be vulnerable. I also like to think that maybe it reduces the burden for them — at least a tiny bit. I am grateful that I have time and space in my life for this kind of sharing, and I am very grateful to live with people who value that kind of “meeting.”
During one go-around recently, T commented on how amazed he is to see people actually fixing their ripped clothes. As I have sat next to Sara and Ted throughout many hours over the last week, I have had the privilege of observing them sew through a year’s worth of ripped pants, shirts, and sweaters. What has been the most entertaining, though, is watching Sara repair a damaged sweater by adding swirls of brightly colored wool. Over the course of many sittings, she is slowly transforming a simple gray sweater into a work of art.
There is something beautiful and symbolic about repairing those damaged clothes. Rather than throw them away, assume they aren’t useful, or give up on them altogether, they work on them. It’s not that the sweaters will ever be the same again. In fact, they might have weak spots that will continue to rip and tear. But the new version, the one with the colorful patches, can be more beautiful than the original.
Right now I can see the tears and rips in the community fabric, and I know that we have barely begun to think about how we might repair those holes. I maintain hope that we are able to mend ourselves — and each other — in a way that will result in a damaged, but more beautiful, village.
I know that if there is a group of people anywhere who can come together, support one another in these extremely hard times, and figure out a way to get through this stronger and more connected than before, I am sharing a community with those people right now. Of course, we will continue to rip and tear that fabric in many more ways in the years to come. Working together, we will add patches, sew up the holes and figure out ways to keep things together.