Last night was marvelous, wonderful, inspiring, uplifting, and connecting. Even though I was exhausted after a long day of unexpected organizing work, I didn’t want to cancel. By the end of the evening I felt energized and joyful. That is a sign of healthy relationships!
I have been reviewing the teachings of Marshall Rosenberg about Nonviolent Communication, and one of the things he suggested was to share appreciation and gratitude with others as a way of increasing positive energy. When I first thought about what I wanted to do during our meeting, my inclination was to discuss all the ways we could start moving towards being like the communities I had visited. But the combination of being tired and remembering Marshall’s encouragement about sharing appreciation lead me to a different suggestion.
So when I asked, “Does anyone object to sharing a few sentences expressing appreciation to each one of us,” no one objected. We started with Chris. Each one of us said specific thing that we appreciated about him. I could feel my energy coming back. Warmth and joy permeated the room as we went around the circle delighting and cherishing each other.
There were words spoken that revealed to me that breakthroughs had happened in our relationships since the two months or so ago that we decided that we are community. I heard feelings and observations that told me that we have made huge progress in our depth of connection. I can see that as I practicing loving people as God loves people–as beings of unsurpassable worth–has reaped blessings in how I treat my community.
I feel grateful that my community was willing to go through a kind of structured process that yielded a lot of spontaneity. Having a light structure, I find, enables the quieter members of the group (Cliff) to be able to express more easily. Rather than confining our words, having some structure encourages creativity, connection, joy, and focus.
The book “Living into Community: Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us” by Christine D. Pohl has as its first section, “Embracing gratitude as a way of life. This is one of four practices that she recommends for healthy community. I am convinced that gratitude is in great need and a habit that we all need to cultivate. I feel encouraged that our community is practicing this now.
The rest of the evening flowed with a depth of conversation that nurtured my spirit. Chris and I shared stories of our adventures. Chris had gone with friends to Moore, Oklahoma, to help Samaritan’s Purse clean up the tornado damage and was away for a month being a camp counselor at War Eagle. I, of course, had been gone for a month visiting communities. Our community enjoyed hearing serious and funny stories.
We also watched part of my interview with Shane Claiborne and talked about how connecting with Shane and his wife was such an inspiring happening in my travels. When Cliff and Chris were saying they were ready to go, I asked what I thought was a simple question. “What was the movie “Gladiator” about.” This resulted in a 45 minute discussion about how Cliff and Chris saw spiritual messages in this powerful movie.
It was as if we really didn’t want to part ways because we were basking in the love that we felt for each other. I feel greatly encouraged. Our next meeting will be more about structure, commitment, and how to move forward. We needed this time of connecting heart to heart to build the foundation of our community and to realize how valuable our community is.