My family is spread across the country. Last week one of my children proposed that since churches were closed, we should hold a virtual, extended family service. A theme was selected. It was the notion of crisis, priorities and perspective change. It could have been a dry conversation. It was not. Each voice was authentic and what could have been a secular discussion became a sacred discussion. It was a precious conversation that met many deep needs.
Here I will share the conversation. So this post will be more intimate than most. Some aspects of the conversation might make a given reader uncomfortable. Yet I share the post with the belief that the same reader may find a phrase somewhere else in the conversation that fills a deep need. My highest aspiration is that each reader might be inspired to create sacred space with someone who, in this difficult time, needs a meaningful connection. There are many.
One of my daughters began by sharing an intimate account of her spiritual journey and the evolution of her priorities. She indicated that she has long had a discipline that included scripture study and prayer. A couple of months ago, she felt a need to enrich the process.
She began to keep a gratitude journal, recording moments for which she was thankful. The process evolved. Experiencing increased gratitude, she began to add deep listening and the recording of the insights that came during her prayers. She particularly focused on the feelings that came. These feelings were impressions to do good things, but things she would normally not do. She recorded the impressions. At the end of each session, she prioritized the impressions into an action list.
The impressions included things like doing a small service for one of her children, or choosing to do a daily task with joy. One, for example, involved showing patience with a child who has to engage in a frustrating, daily task. The task in question usually ended with everyone in anger. This time, as she chose to act with patience, she was surprised at how peacefully the process unfolded. Her new discipline led to many other pleasant surprises.
When the virus hit and schools closed, she began drifting back to her original patterns of study and prayer. The emphasis on listening and acting was gone. She recognized a sense of loss, and she decided to return to the practice of listening, setting priorities, and acting on her impressions. Despite the crisis she now feels she is functioning at a high level.
My son-in-law then shared several examples of changing priorities. One illustration was a boss who is normally intense. He read a message she sent out. It indicated that in tough times, it is not possible to do what is normally done. She suggested that each person needed to set their own priorities and trust the fact that unity is the key to getting through what everyone is facing. He was deeply appreciative of her short and unexpected message.
A daughter-in-law then spoke of her very social child. The little girl was devastated because she would have no birthday party. The mother became proactive and put together a “coronavirus party.” On her daughter’s birthday she took the child to the front door. In the driveway were four families standing far apart from each other. They sang Happy Birthday and yelled best wishes to the little girl. Her daughter was thrilled.
Connection and Meaning
Someone commented that in difficult times people really do begin to examine their priorities. In response I shared an image. I had a mentor who lived in Hawaii when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred. After the event there were endless rumors, including the notion that the Japanese were about to land and occupy the island. My mentor said that on the following Sunday, every church on the island was filled to overflowing. In crisis, people have a great need for connection and meaning.
A daughter-in-law responded by telling of being near the World Trade Center on 9-11. As she tried to make her way through the chaos, she passed a church. The stairs were lined with people. They were from every walk of life and each was praying fervently. She said the image was unforgettable.
A son suggested that there is a lesson in those two images. When our small children are greatly aged, they will still recall what happened during this current time of crisis. He asked, “What can we do now to make this a generative experience?”
It was a challenge to see the crisis through the eyes of our children. It was a challenge to reframe the experience and thus create a meaningful legacy.
This led to a discussion of possible positive actions in our families. After some reflection, the same son made an observation. He noted that for quite a while he has been struggling with his emotions over some of his boss’ actions. He has had difficulty dealing with the hurt he felt. This week, he noticed that his anger was gone. He felt forgiveness. He wondered why, and realized that the crisis has caused him to put his daily problems into a much larger perspective. The big issue with his boss was now less consequential. With the change in perspective, he empathized more easily with his boss and felt no need to hold on to the negative emotions. This raised the question of how we can change our perspectives in a positive way by choice.
Another son spoke up. He indicated that in the evenings, when the kids are finally in bed, his habit is to watch a sports event. Now he is in the process of consciously changing the habit. He has decided to use the time to work on more meaningful matters, like writing to people he loves.
There were two daughter-in-laws who had been quiet. Someone asked for their thoughts. The first became tearful. She described how two of her children would now miss out on some of the most important life events. One, for example, would not experience the rituals associated with high school graduation. As a mother, she was in mourning for the children’s losses. She indicated that while she feels quite close to God, she is simultaneously sad. She feels the need to mourn. She feels value in the process. She expressed gratitude to be able to share her difficult feelings.
The second was also tearful. As the virus hit she found herself full of fears. Then an entirely different crisis hit in her area. It was an earthquake. Her house shook for 15 seconds. She said, “The fear threw me into a dark place.”
To cope with the dark feelings, she returned to basics. She is using her new found time to focus on each child, to convey love, and to connect them with other family members. She reported, “Doing these things has made me more optimistic.”
Loneliness and Unity
There was woman on the call who was not a family member. As we were ending, she was also in tears. She expressed gratitude for being included in the conversation. She shared her sense of isolation and indicated that the conversation was nourishing. Then she said, “It really does take a village to raise a family.”
- In this crisis, what are your deepest, unmet needs?
- Who in your village might have a deep, unmet need?
- What could you do to create a sacred space and help meet the needs of others?
- What is the first step?