In times of great stress, we can often be reminded of our innate creativity as human beings.
That doesn’t make the stress go away. Everywhere we turn, we see reasons to be concerned. Friends or loved ones wrestling with illness. Strangers for whom we feel compassion as they experience infuriating challenges to their well-being and care. How helpless it feels to think of people desperate for something as simple as toilet paper!
Many of us feel disappointed and sad at the (temporary) loss of our regular practice of gathering together in person. We have anxiety about the disruption to our schedules and the uncertainty about when or if life will ever go back to “normal.” We can’t escape that worry, and it seems silly to try.
And yet, we are concerned and anxious largely because we are connected. We are not isolated beings trudging some lonely road of existence, we truly are interconnected with an entire, expansive, amazingly complex web of life.
We hurt when others hurt because we are connected.
We mourn when others mourn because we are connected.
We also laugh and sing and celebrate along with others because we are connected.
That connection does not go away simply because we choose not to be with one another in person.
And, yes, it is a choice we have made in this time. Our concern for one another’s well-being, and for the well-being of our larger community, have led us to make a choice about how we gather. It isn’t a pleasant choice, but it is a principled choice. Our decision reflects our awareness of how we can be purposeful in our expressions of justice, equity, and compassion. Our decision reflects our deep awareness that our lives are all intertwined.
Our choice about how to gather reflects our awareness that trusting the democratic process means trusting in our wisdom and creativity as human beings.
Yes, our connection remains strong even when we choose not to gather in person, and we can engage our creativity and hope to discover new ways of expressing that connection.
In my personal life, a small group that had intended to meet in person quickly adjusted our plans and met virtually. We were still able to share in one another’s life and appreciate one another’s collaboration. Our connection was merely expressed in a different way.
This weekend, I called some people in leadership positions and we explored together how we might continue to serve in meaningful ways without being physically present. We moved past mourning the loss of face-to-face gathering and into a hopeful and inspiring pool of possibilities for human connection. That pool of possibility has quite a deep end if we are willing to dive in!
Perhaps you are not done with mourning. I don’t mean to rush you. Grieve as you must. But in your mourning, leave a little room for hope and creativity. They manage to blossom in unexpected ways when given but a little space.
If you are willing, perhaps you will even set aside your anxiety for a moment and ask: What can I do right now to connect with one other person that I’m going to miss seeing in person?
Maybe it’s a phone call. Maybe it’s virtual connection. Maybe you write an old-fashioned letter or an email. Maybe the two of you stand on your rooftops and use semaphore.
If you are willing, perhaps you will even get more creative. How many friends can I get on a virtual connection this morning or this afternoon?
You can delve into spiritual matters. You can share humorous stories. You can play games, perhaps. You can remind one another of your connection. If you must, you can talk about your fears and your anxieties. But if you are willing to talk about how meaningful your connection is, you may find that your fears and anxieties are lessened.
This is not wishful thinking, friends. Understanding the depth of our connection with one another is a clear antidote to our fear. And we are creative enough to find ways to express that connection, even in the midst of a challenge.
The bar has been raised a bit for the moment, but our connection has not been lessened. We have made wise choices based on our deep, life-affirming values, but our lives are no less intertwined.
What we experience as stress may just be a calling from within ourselves to face a challenging (although temporary) limitation by engaging our creativity and expressing our connection with renewed persistence.
Be of good cheer, friends. We are not disconnected. We are creative beings. We are whole.
Dr. Randolph L. Partain