It’s been harder than usual to focus on words this past week.

As I searched for words, I also walked,

reviewing and reflecting upon the sights and sounds in my world since the election.

Sights

Super moon peaks over the trees, Nov. 13, 2016. Collegeville, MN.

Super moon peeks over the trees, Nov. 13, 2016. Collegeville, MN.

As the moon emerged, I felt hope rising also.

As the moon emerged, I felt hope rising also.

Super moon by Rebecca Breems

Super moon photo by Rebecca Breems, an amateur photographer I met on the St. John’s road.

 

Tina looking over Lake Sagatagan.

Visitor Tina looking over Lake Sagatagan. Her wide-eyed enthusiasm and refusal of hysteria challenged me and gave me hope, as we surfed our emotions together.

Sounds

Krista Tippett and Courtney Martin in the On Being Studio, Loring Park.

Krista Tippett and Courtney Martin in the On Being Studio, Loring Park.

For several weeks, I have looked forward to seeing Krista Tippett and Courtney Martin again, two friends I met through my work at the Fetzer Institute. I was invited to attend Courtney’s Minneapolis book launch for The New Better Off: Reinventing the American Dream.

Krista and Courtney have been speaking, with each other, with others, and with the world in the last decade through the amazing project now called On Being, which is a broadcast, a website, and a podcast.

Before an audience still dazed by election results, Courtney wondered aloud, “Should we even do this (a book launch)?”

Krista’s response was adamant, quoting from Sister Joan Chittister, reminding us that Benedict’s rule kept western literature alive in the sixth century, and that this kind of book holds that same potential for our time.

The air in the room got noticeably lighter. The sound of her voice was both calming and motivating.

Courtney then described how the book came to be. She has been searching for, and planting, “invisible seeds “of hope, trying to reclaim the best of what previous generations did in ways that are “humble, brave, and accountable.”

Much of that work focuses on friendships rather than accumulation of either status or things.

I became especially alert when Courtney talked about the value of inter-generational friendships.

After I finish the book, I’m sure I’ll have more jubilación thoughts to share here.

Another Voice of Hope

On Sunday, we listened to another voice just right for our times: Abbot John Klassen.

He directed our attention to these words of Jesus about how to live through dangerous, tumultuous, events.

“By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

Abbot John linked perseverance to hope:

“Hope and perseverance are two sides of the same coin.

Hope without perseverance creates anxiety followed by disconnection.

We live at 30,000 feet, no longer connected to the world’s pain.

Perseverance without hope goes into resignation,

cynicism, and cold indifference.”

If you have even a few minutes to listen to his voice in a 2012 video, you will hear both hope and perseverance.

This last week has been hard.

I missed being with my family, especially with Stuart, who wasn’t even available by phone due to his two-week trip to Cuba.

But this community of Benedictines has held me.

Every day I have witnessed sights and sounds as signs of invisible grace.

Small Actions

My little community of Collegeville Institute scholars has been the strongest container. We watched the election returns together.

Now we are all seeking ways to respond with support for each other and for the vulnerable in our communities.

I was inspired to join my colleague Jessica in her desire to volunteer with the local refugee community.

Our first step will be making welcome kits together with our friends.

Secondly, our family has decided not to exchange names for Christmas gifts this year.

Instead, we’ll bring names of favorite charities and choose gifts for these, inviting Owen and Julia, ages 5 and 4, to help us.

What action steps are you taking to help our nation heal and to live your beliefs? Have you had conversations with family members, friends, neighbors who voted differently from you? How is that going? Please bring your imperfect offerings, as Leonard Cohen might say. We need to hear each others stories.

Shirley Showalter

36 Comments

  1. Richard Gilbert on November 16, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    Lovely and healing, Shirley. In addition to what I write, I’ve vowed to become better informed, following the news more closely, alas, and reading more history. And when we retire, becoming actively involved in politics.

    My talks with those who voted differently have not gone well! They’ve broken down in strong emotions and convictions on both sides. So far. Time will help.

    • Shirley Showalter on November 16, 2016 at 12:33 pm

      I hope readers here will click on your name, Richard, to see your take on the election and a more detailed report of your engagement with voters on the opposite side. I am glad to see that you are re-committing to the political process and are willing to be self-reflective about conversations that produced more heat than light. “So far.” Time will indeed help.

      We need help holding these conversations. I want to learn more about what my friends in the peacebuilding community are doing. They have resources to share that we need right now.

      Let’s keep using our words, as the kindergarten teachers say in times of conflict. And let’s keep searching for better ones.

  2. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on November 16, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    Although I’m Canadian and could not vote in your election, I followed it closely, and the outcome was a huge disappointment. We are neighbours, and what affects you over there affects us as well. I take comfort in Psalm 121: “I lift my eyes to the hills–from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1. My parents, grandparents and great grandparents suffered hugely during the Russian Revolution and its aftermath. Everything was taken from them, but no one could take away their hope in God!

    • Shirley Showalter on November 16, 2016 at 1:05 pm

      Elfrieda, your words are a blessing and comfort. My friend Tina pointed me in the direction of Archbishop Tutu for the same reason — light in a dark time. People can survive terrible suffering, not despite their faith, but because of it.

      Enjoy your government in Canada. Right now it is a beacon of hope to many.

  3. Laurie Buchanan on November 16, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    Shirley — Shocked by the election results, my action step has been to look for the silver lining. This, in turn, opened what could have been an ugly conversation between my sister and I (we are on opposite ends of the political spectrum), that turned out to be not only civil, but informative and lovely for both of us. It was a long time coming. I found the silver lining — an olive branch shared between sisters.

    • Shirley Showalter on November 17, 2016 at 10:47 am

      Laurie, how wonderful that a time of greater external struggle has brought you closer to your sister. Thank you for sharing that story. It does indeed strengthen the hope for other families this holiday season. Do you have any words about HOW this conversation started, continued? Perhaps you’ll want to share this in your own blog? In an op-ed? (If your sister agrees, of course.)

      • Laurie Buchanan on December 3, 2016 at 9:08 pm

        Shirley — And while I didn’t write an op-ed piece, I did take your suggestion to heart and shared this story. It made it into the online magazine, “Evolving Your Spirit.” Here’s a link: https://indd.adobe.com/view/3a046480-1a74-47a9-8278-abf3c5501ab2 – you’ll find all of the articles interesting. Mine is at the end.

        • Shirley Showalter on December 3, 2016 at 9:12 pm

          Fantastic, Laurie! This essay is full of your resilient, loving spirit. Keep planting seeds of kindness and hope!

          • Laurie Buchanan on December 3, 2016 at 9:30 pm

            Shirley — Thank you. You’ll see a wee bit more regarding “Sankalpa” the first Tuesday in 2017 when I share my focus word for the new year. Thank you for the nudge. I appreciate YOU!



  4. Melodie Davis on November 17, 2016 at 7:29 am

    I’ll admit here (although I’ve refrained on FB) that I was not completely shocked–surprised yes, but perhaps more in touch with the those who have felt disenfranchised and looked to Trump for hope and change. But yes, steps forward seem to be more about spreading love and good will and kindness than protesting en masse over disappointment or dismay. Kudos for introducing the grands early to another way of doing Christmas. I do enjoy helping at our church clothes closet which puts us in touch with many from all over the world (including refugees)right here in town. One woman (this one U.S. born) last night was so excited about the things she’d picked out for her co-worker at Friendship Industries, including a beautiful almost new winter coat. She will share her joy with that friend today. The good will spreads out.

    • Shirley Showalter on November 17, 2016 at 10:54 am

      Melodie, thanks for offering this comment about being in touch with likely Trump voters or at least people who understand where those voters are coming from. I talked with someone last night who said he felt disenfranchised the last eight years. I’ve been thinking about his words since then.

      Having direct contact with people whose lives we have the opportunity to touch for good in small ways is very exciting. Glad you have had this recent experience of seeing with your own eyes and hearing with your own ears the impact of good will. Keep letting your light shine. It helps us all.

  5. Marian Beaman on November 17, 2016 at 10:53 am

    I find much to think about here, Shirley. As scholar you are so adept at making sense of disparate ideas, showing a common thread and inviting response.

    Hope and perseverance are two sides of the same coin as are challenge and opportunity in the yin-yang symbol, each contains a seed of the other. What a motivating truth!

    I have enjoyed “meeting” Courtney Martin through two of her Ted talks. How well she combines the pragmatic with the ideological. Her community-type lifestyle is fascinating too, nurturing body, soul, and spirit. Krista Tippett was right – The show must go on.

    My pastor has struck the same chord in his sermons, reminding us to lift our eyes away from man toward a God who could accomplish good, even through wicked King Cyrus in the Old Testament. He pointed out too that Nehemiah served immoral King Xerxes because it fit into God’s plan. In fact, Esther married Xerxes and change the course of Jewish history.

    One Christmas Aunt Ruthie donated to the llama project for the poor in our names. We didn’t get the usual presents wrapped up in shiny bows that year and I remember feeling disappointed. Yet, she taught us a valuable lesson about thinking beyond our own noses.

    Here’s to llama gifts and welcome kits!

    • Shirley Showalter on November 17, 2016 at 12:05 pm

      Marian, it’s interesting how time changes impressions. You traded in your shiny presents for a llama and felt disappointed, but Aunt Ruthie knew you would remember the lesson. I should clarify that Owen and Julia will still be getting presents at their tender ages. But I think they are old enough to learn to think beyond their noses, too. Maybe they will choose to send a llama!

      For me, the Xerxes/Esther comparison breaks down when you place the actors in a democracy. Esther liberated her people from the immoral king, but she did not vote him into office.

      I will join you in lifting eyes toward God “for such a time as this.”

      • Marian Beaman on November 17, 2016 at 1:48 pm

        As I understand the nature of God, his workings ultimately transcend human machinations whether in a democracy, a monarchy or dictatorship. That is what I meant to imply with these examples.

        • Shirley Showalter on November 17, 2016 at 2:37 pm

          Thank you, Marian, for this clarification. I wish we could talk and walk together, sharing understandings about faith and politics. I know I would learn from you.

  6. Audrey Denecke on November 17, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    Thank you for your post. What a gift (and challenge) to be at Collegeville at this moment in time. I’m happy you have support around you.
    I am emerging from the initial shock and grief. I too have found some solace in embracing in a deeper way my practices (as Abbott John also refers to them), especially meditation, small creative actions (ex. making butternut and pumpkin squash puree and freezing for making soup later).
    As I’ve mentioned to you, my family is quite divided over this election. Initially, it looked like I would be having Thanksgiving alone. Then an invitation arrived for a gathering which will involve a few from both pov’s. We will be placing family over politics for the moment. A. John also spoke about getting along in community (and family). We will not touch the electric line of politics that day; we need a healing space. So, vulnerability is required.
    Simultaneously I am slowly identifying 10 actions I can take to support those at risk in this political transition.
    Finally, my in-process memoir will require a new plan. How do I talk about my history of social justice (its’ core content) in ways that will serve a new purpose?
    One thing I know, I have been shaken awake to a rude new reality. And, my third stage of life is brimming with purpose

    • Shirley Showalter on November 17, 2016 at 2:43 pm

      “My third stage of life is brimming with purpose.” How inspiring, Audrey. Someone in my twitter feed observed that this election has kicked her into high gear — even more than “yes, we can” eight years ago. Have you read Mary Catherine Bateson’s book Composing a Further Life? I think you would find it helpful as you keep revising your memoir’s goals. Nearly all the famous feminists of the sixties and seventies have written about aging — Friedan, Fonda, Steinem, and Ephron, to name just a few.

      So glad to hear that your family is finding a way to be together and to focus on a healing space. May you be at peace and help others be the same.

      • Audrey Denecke on November 17, 2016 at 3:04 pm

        Thanks,Shirley. Yes, I do have Bateson’s book and read it some time ago. And, I will revisit and see what may surface as wisdom useful in the moment.
        Warm thanksgiving wishes for you and your family as well.

  7. Marlene Kropf on November 17, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    Thank you for the splendid moon shots, Shirley — our skies were too cloudy to view. Even more, thank you for the image of the rising moon as an enduring sign of hope. I enjoyed listening to Abbot John again.

    What has sustained me most these days is gathering with groups of which I’m a part. On the day after the election it was my local writing group, one of whom chaired a Democratic race in her district. We grieved together and comforted each other. Later in the week I attended a regional meeting of spiritual directors and listened to Jamal Rahman, one of the three interfaith amigos — a man of peace. Then in our church small group we lit candles, reflected on how the light had broken through the events of the week, and shared communion. In all of these groups, we spoke of renewed commitment to difficult conversations across boundaries and also to our own personal spiritual practices.

    • Shirley Showalter on November 17, 2016 at 2:51 pm

      I’m glad to see you here again, Marlene. I’ve thought of you often this semester, especially when meeting with Abbot John and attending the Bridgefolk social hour. Your spirit remains here with many people.

      The candle lighting, the spiritual practices and spiritual friendships, and the communion will help us hold the difficult conversations that must happen in the weeks, months, and years ahead. The phrase from the liturgy of the hours, “Lord, make haste to help us,” takes on new meaning.

  8. susan scott on November 17, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    I loved this Shirley thank you – the sights and sounds and small voices. I look forward to listening to John Klassen.

    Gosh, the outcome has certainly torn people asunder. NOW is the time for deep and essential discourse and to uncover the wounds so that they can be healed. Listening deeply, in an innerly way, and strengthening those inner muscles. Perseverance and hope – two sides of the same coin – both necessary beyond imagining.

    May the Benedectine community continue to hold you –

    • Shirley Showalter on November 17, 2016 at 5:07 pm

      Thank you, Susan. I’m intrigued that the Super Moon attracted both of us to listen deeply. You twinned the moon with the rainbow in your last post. Both images strengthen our inner muscles.

      Thanks for your good wishes.

  9. Marylin Warner on November 17, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    Your friend’s pictures came out SO much better than ours, Shirley, but while we were huddled under a blanket viewing it real time, I was filled me with calm awe. The moon was a gift and a reminder that some things beyond our control are still in the control of the original source.
    A former student asked me what I was hoping for now, after the election. I told her that I hoped a year from now we would all be surprised by the lessons we’ve learned and what our country has been able to pull together and accomplish.
    And that is my hope.

    • Shirley Showalter on November 17, 2016 at 5:35 pm

      Marylin, I join you in that hope, although I must admit that it’s hard to imagine better days ahead when I’m not looking at the moon or listening to calming voices. Then is when I must go to my community and listen again to the Psalms.

      I do believe there is much to be learned by those of us who were perhaps unaware of the forces that led to this result. I’m trying to do that. We educators know that the best thing we can do when we’re in pain is learn!

  10. Tina Barbour on November 17, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    I have found solace mostly in online groups and friends. There are not a lot of “kindred spirits” in my part of Virginia. I made some posts on FB that were really an outpouring of grief and fear, and I was mostly supported by friends. But there were many calls online to “move on” and “it will be fine” and I don’t think this is something to move beyond. It’s something that is going to take all of our efforts and creativity. So how do I go forward in peace and not feel resentful toward everyone I know who supported Trump? Still finding my way. I have been helped by the call to writers, including writers for children, to use our words to reach out and help create unity and acceptance. I am making a more mindful effort to remember the “small acts” I can take to lift others up. I want to be an encouraging resource to others. I want to help others know they are not alone. So I must find and keep the peace within my own heart.

    • Shirley Showalter on November 17, 2016 at 6:21 pm

      Such a heart-felt sentiment, Tina. I don’t know which is a worse feeling, the punch of having a bubble of the like-minded burst, or the confirmation of not having a bubble.

      One thing I affirm in your response is to focus on your work. Make it for the children of the future. Here’s a blog post from a friend that quotes a poem from Muriel Rukeyser that I think may speak to you: http://patriciagraceking.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-storm-and-story.html?spref=fb

      • Tina Barbour on November 17, 2016 at 9:05 pm

        Thank you for sending me to this blog post. Yes, she spoke to me and was another inspiration to me to keep working.

        Yesterday evening I participated in an online discussion (PubTalkTV) through Manuscript Academy led by literary agents and children’s book authors. Such a lovely hour of talk and laughter and kindness. At the end, one of the agents asked, Do any of you feel better? As she put it later, the chat feed “lit up” with Yes. I was one of those saying, Yes.

  11. Tracy Lee Karner on November 17, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    I am so thankful for this post, Shirley. Hope and perseverance–these words are exactly what I need to hear and hold onto right now.

    I wish I might have joined you for another pre-winter walk, but metaphorical storms blew in early this week, and it appears a real winter bluster is heading our way tomorrow early am.

    I’m currently reading an Arthur Katz book pressed on me by a new acquaintance. It’s more journal than memoir, set in post WWII Europe–a quest for meaning and purpose. What strikes me is the way people talk to each other, with so much less self-consciousness than our “on stage” culture has drummed into our 21st century psyches.

    I’m going to try to listen to people who voted differently, and to those who voted the same, just listen. In the past week I’ve been brought to a place of sorrow where words utterly fail me. But I can still listen, and hope, and persevere.

    • Shirley Showalter on November 17, 2016 at 6:27 pm

      So sorry to hear about the metaphorical storms, Tracy, but I’m glad if this post offers you confirmation of your ability to take small steps. Listening for you right now is that step, and it is enough. If all of us truly listened, the world would eventually right itself, I think.

      I take off for a week with family in Virginia after the first Minnesota snow. I wish you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving.

      • Tracy Lee Karner on November 17, 2016 at 10:54 pm

        Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours also. It’s my favorite holiday and I’m looking forward to it. Safe travels.

  12. Merril Smith on November 19, 2016 at 8:17 am

    Thank you, Shirley. Hope and perseverance are important, and as you remind us, no matter how devastated we are, there is still the beauty of nature to nurture our souls and quiet are fears (at least a little bit).
    I’ve made some phone calls and e-mailed senators and representatives–for the first time ever. I’ve made donations to various groups and causes. DT’s picks have made me more fearful about what our country could lose.

    Our family get-together last week was a much-needed balm. I love Thanksgiving, and I hope there is no conflict at the table. (There will be people there who were not at the gathering last weekend.)

    • Shirley Showalter on November 19, 2016 at 9:58 am

      Thanks, Merril. I am seeing the same situation you are–especially about the extremist picks after an initial conciliatory message. Have you read Sarah Kendzior’s latest post? She’s a PhD and specialist in global authoritarianism. It’s chilling. We need historians now more than ever. Keep writing and naming truth as you see it.

  13. Sherrey Meyer on November 19, 2016 at 5:27 pm

    Absolutely comforting and healing, Shirley. I enjoy the newsletter from On Being, especially Parker Palmer’s writings. Our focus must be on persevering and healing as the new administration moves forward with somewhat shaky appointments. Finding ways to help the marginalized in our communities may be the one thing that keeps me going in the next months/years. Thank you for these images and sounds and the warm blanket of grace.

    • Shirley Showalter on November 21, 2016 at 11:04 pm

      Thanks, Sherrey, a “warm blanket of grace” is a lovely image as I sit wrapped in an afghan made my dear departed mother-in-law.

      I’m thinking hard about gratitude and its connection to love and justice.

      I’m sure you are too. Have a happy Thanksgiving. Keep the faith.

  14. Elaine Mansfield on November 20, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    Thank you, Shirley. It must have been wonderful to be surrounded by wise voices, big hearts, and new friends. The more you write, the more I find out about your deep connections to people whose work I care about.

    I’m slowly dealing with my grief. I spent a few days after the election volunteering at Hospice, a place I love to be and work I love to do. I gave a service at a UU fellowship two days before the election and will lead a hospice bereavement ritual this week. Small things I can offer to a fretful world. Because Vic’s mom was hospitalized this week, I spent lots of time with nurses, physical therapists, and health aides–as well as my mother-in-law. I talk with everyone, especially strangers, about the fear we all feel. One woman told me her husband is a police officer and she and her kids fear for his life.

    I’ve made arrangements to go to the Women’s March in Washington, DC the day after inauguration. A friend arranged for us to stay at her friend’s apartment in DC. We’ll have a full car and share the driving. My friend got a dog sitter for her pooch, so Willow has a place, too. It was sweet Dito be taken care of in these ways while I took care of my M-I-L. This is my only big plan and we’ll see if it holds together. It takes me back to the big anti-war marches in NY and DC in 1963.

    • Shirley Showalter on November 21, 2016 at 11:10 pm

      Elaine,thank you for sharing your own journey both personal and political since the election. Your mother’s care, always difficult, must be more so during this time. But perhaps being needed right now is a good thing. I hope so and send a prayer to both of you.

      The march is tempting. I have friends who are going. Since I am living between two places right now, it’s hard to make plans. But I think I might do it too. Good to know you will be there.

      Happy Thanksgiving.

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