Individualism has always been a hallmark of Western, capitalist society, and yet the wounds it is creating seem to be growing. Isolated and lonely people struggle. Mental health and addiction concerns seem to be on the rise—in the headlines nearly everyday. Housing and health and food (in)security, and the rising cost of everything, make it increasingly difficult for folks to make ends meet, which makes it harder and harder for people to have the inner resources to be open with others. We are slowly but surely becoming less known and less seen, which leads to a sense that our lives don’t hold much meaning or purpose. How can we change this trend? How can we connect more?
A friend and I were talking recently about the things that make us cry these days. We noted that anytime someone shares something vulnerable or real or deep about themselves, it brings tears to our eyes. We crave that type of opening, and see it so rarely. She shared a quotation from the poet Andrea Gibson, “I decided I was too soft to last. But then I decided to be even softer.” What if softness and tenderness were seen as virtues? What if rather than being encouraged to present ourselves to the world as impenetrable walls, we saw kindness and tenderness and vulnerability as virtues to aspire toward? How different might your everyday interactions be? How might this shift your view of the world?
I go grocery shopping at the same time every week and in the same grocery store. Over time I have become connected with one of the staff people in the store. We don’t have lengthy conversations, and I don’t even know his name, but we’ve gone from simply saying hello to sharing some things about our families and lives. It is a small thing, but it makes me feel like I have more company in this world. It makes an errand feel like a chance to connect. It is an opportunity for me to be in the world in a way that I hope we all can be — show up, be present, and be real.
World peace will not be achieved at the grocery store; I know that. And yet, perhaps it has to start there. If we cannot see each other, and be vulnerable in one another’s presence, it will always be easier to see each other as a misunderstood foe than as a potential friend. May we find our way back toward one another. May we find peace within and then share it with our hurting world.
Rev. Shana Lynngood serves as Co-Minister of the First Unitarian Church of Victoria. She and her wife and two children have lived as settler/guests in Victoria since 2010. When not deeply engaged with work, Rev. Lynngood is likely to be found reading poetry, listening to music, or walking outside to soak in the beauty of the land and sky and sea and creatures with whom we share this part of the planet.
You can read more articles on our blog, Spiritually Speaking at https://www.timescolonist.com/blogs/spiritually-speaking