Yesterday a shock wave rocked San Francisco with news that Mayor Ed Lee had died suddenly of a heart attack. There was no advance warning, but what happened next was humanity at its best and most beautiful.
I began to see posts from people that opposed the mayor politically, filled with nothing but care and concern for his family. This seems to happen. We come together and find compassion and even care when tragedy strikes, but in our day to day interactions, we are content to spew hatred and ugliness. I want to live in a world where we treat people like they have value and we might lose them without warning.
This year the word that has been the most prominent in my heart and mind is reconciliation. It feels as if we are coming apart at the seams at times. Our frayed edges show our ugliest truths and our utter lack of compassion for the “other” has felt discouragingly obvious. How do we seek and find reconciliation in the midst of this grimy, slimy, precipice where we find ourselves?
Reconciliation resonates deeply within my heart, because I believe that humans desire to be reconciled at their core. We desire reconciliation with God, self and others. When we are isolated and feeling ripped from others, our hearts grieve. True connection requires risk. It costs us. The fear of trusting people with our true selves, with our hearts, is too great at times and keeps us isolated in our dark, cold reality.
But sometimes when I most need it I get a glimpse of hope. Last night I watched in awe as a group of 17 parents graduated from our Triple P (Positive Parenting Program). At our first session the mistrust and caution in the room was palpable. As we journeyed together one thing became clear: these parents felt isolated and were deeply lonely in their struggle. Parenting teenagers is a challenging task no matter what the situation. Over 12 weeks I watched a group of strangers become an interconnected web of deeply loving parents. They listened without judging, supported without advising, loved without reservation. Parents who previously felt like failures began to feel supported and understood. Their pride and confidence coupled with newfound hope, was one of the miracle moments of this season.
This has led me to wonder where else I have witnessed reconciliation this year. Where else have I seen people around me push against the fear that keeps us apart and choose connection? I see this every day at the center. As young people who have been hurt and abandoned begin to trust and connect with staff and each other. Each one of them takes a risk to overcome fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of judgment and anxiety of new faces and places so common among those harmed by trauma. Each day we get front row seats to the miracle of baby steps into a new reality of connection and care. Connection and reconciliation can feel fragile, but in fact are a robust and resilient work.
Recently I was trying to clean some spider webs out of our backyard grill. I was dismayed and intrigued at how hearty and indestructible they were while looking deceptively fragile and dainty. This gives me hope for the seemingly fragile web we are spinning each day. As young people take a risky step to connect with someone safe another strand is added to their web of safety and connection. It may not be a perfectly formed, symmetrical web, but it’s a beauty to behold.
As we experience the holidays with all the bustle and charm, I want to be on the lookout for stories of connection and reconciliation. I want to remember that each face I greet is a fellow, weary traveler and not a problem to solve. I want to slow down and be attentive to my own heart and my own need to reconcile with God, self and others. Will you join me?
A Prayer for Reconciliation
Where there is separation,
there is pain.
And where there is pain,
there is story.
And where there is story,
there is understanding,
and not listening.
May we – separated peoples,
divided communities –
turn toward each other,
and turn toward our stories,
with argument and acceptance,
with challenge, change
Because if God is to be found,
God will be found
in the space
Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community
Padraig O Tuama