The moment we cease to hold each other, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.
– James Baldwin
Gathering in community in times of uncertainty and change, in times of danger or despair, in times of jubilation and joy, has been essential to the surviving-healing-thriving of human beings since we began walking this earth in small tribes of human beings.
Even now, on a planet overflowing with 7.5 billion people, talking-listening-sharing-respecting-honoring who we are as individuals, who we are as “tribes” of choices and circumstances, who we are inextricably woven into the fabric of common humanity, nourishes our hearts, buoys our spirits, challenges our perceptions and opinions, and guides our actions.
Creating Community in Times of Uncertainty and Change
One of the most difficult challenges in facing any change or upheaval in our lives, any major losses or crises, is falling into a sense of isolation. The feeling alone, that nobody knows, nobody cares, that can lead to despair and immobilization.
What’s needed is to regain and sustain a sense of connectedness, of belonging, that our lives and our struggles and our efforts matter to people; that we matter to people, and that the well-being of other people still matters to us.
These days, with families and friends far-flung, that much-needed support of connection and community can feel like it’s unraveling and we feel isolated and orphaned. There are many, many digital ways to stay in touch with and communicate with people these days. I’m suggesting being with people in person, face to face, heart to heart, still has an incredible power to heal and to motivate.
Here’s one simple way to come together with other like-minded people in times of difficulty and change. A gathering like this can be transformative beyond what you can imagine.
Invite a small group of people, 6-8, to gather in your home for a put-luck dinner or in a neighborhood café. Gathering around “the hearth” and good food evokes archetypal experiences of safety and trust.
Have everyone draw an inspiring quote from a basked as they arrive. (You can easily prepare these quotes ahead of time on separate pieces of paper. Use the archive of quotes by topic on my website – courage, creating change, perseverance-determination, response flexibility, vision-perception-wise view – if you wish.)
As people settle around the table or around your living room, have each person read their quote to create a common ground among you and a connection to the wisdom of courageous coping from all cultures in all ages.
Then ask people to introduce themselves – name, where from, work in the world, etc. – also sharing one brief moment or example of hope, optimism, meaning they experiences in the last few days, ground this gathering in the circumstances of the present while looking forward to change and resilience.
Then, as people begin to eat, ask people to dialogue in pairs, taking turns sharing a story of resilient coping – their own or another’s – that might have a kernel of a lesson of how other people keep on keepin’ on; how we all keep on keepin’ on.
As people re-gather into the large group, probably still eating, have people share any insights or reflections from the dialogue they just experienced. The sharing of the lessons begins to create a common energy field from which new ideas and examples can emerge.
As the group moves on to dessert, ask people to begin to brainstorm what is one action they might take in the coming week to cope with the uncertainty they are facing, and who might they reach out to, to connect with, to cope with the uncertainties we all are facing.
End the evening with any poem you wish that expresses the possibilities of creating community, creating change. There are many. Here is one of my favorites of all time, for all time:
It is I Who Must Begin
It is I who must begin.
Once I begin, once I try –
here and now,
right where I am,
not excusing myself
by saying things
would be easier elsewhere,
without grand speeches and
but all the more persistently
–to live in harmony
with the “voice of Being,” as I
understand it within myself
–as soon as I begin that,
I suddenly discover,
to my surprise, that
I am neither the only one,
nor the first,
not the most important one
to have set out upon that road.
Whether all is really lost
or not depends entirely on
whether or not I am lost.
– Vaclav Havel