I have done many things over the course of my 47+ years of life. I have played many roles. I have held a variety of jobs, some paid and some not. I have lived in many places – 11 states to be exact. In many ways, I think I have spent most of my adult life responding to my surroundings, as opposed to initiating what I want and pursuing that. Up until 2000, I lived a gypsy’s life and enjoyed the experiences. With as much as I appreciate my life, I have at times missed having a specific calling. I wondered, if at 20 I was encouraged to explore my heart’s desire professionally, what would I have chosen and how would I have worked towards that?
I suppose this is why with my two kids, I have been intentional about daring them to dream. Dream specifically, I said. Dream big. I have countered the world’s wisdom by encouraging them not to think in terms of paychecks and financial security, but rather to explore their passions, talents, and how they might help make this world better. I have wanted them to live lives that they are proud of, lives that inspire others. I have heard parents say, “I told my kid that (s)he has to think more practically, to have a backup plan.” I cringed every time I heard this. Why the fuck are we telling our kids to dream a little smaller? <sigh> But I digress.
While I may not have spent much of my adult life dreaming in specifics, I realize that there has been something underlying the bulk of my pursuits. I have been passionately driven about connecting. There is potentially nothing worse than being disconnected. Feeling alone leads to a significant and overwhelming sadness at times. Disconnectedness can cause some to self-medicate. It can drive others into deep mental illness. And it takes some to the point of no return through suicide.
I see evidence of disconnection everywhere I go. I see it in our eyes. I hear it in our conversations. I sense it in our non-stop-busy lives. And I want to tell you that there is great power in connecting. I connect with God through nature, with creation through gardening, with myself through meditation, with others through meaningful and fun conversation. These experiences and many others contribute to my wellbeing. They make me more certain of who I am in the world. Connection brings contentment. And when I struggle with someone or something, connecting helps. Connecting might not be the solution, but it helps me work towards the solution.
Connecting has been instrumental in maintaining my sanity. Sanity can be hard sometimes. Very hard. Disconnection is like a cancer that invades our bodies, often silently at first. And if untreated, can become deadly to our minds, bodies, and/or souls. But connecting can be difficult. We can be surrounded by people we love yet feel utterly alone. And often what initially might feel like connection turns out to be a superficial substitute. Connection requires work. And some of us are clueless about how to do that work.
Maybe that is why what I do has rarely been my priority. Whatever my role – mom, neighbor, friend, chaplain, pastor, administrator – my goal is connection. Connection occurs on a variety of levels. It might be person to person or it might be person with resources. It could even be as simple as connecting a person to his/her own thoughts and feelings. We experience disconnect in so many different ways. And the opportunities to connect are equally diverse.
Perhaps this all started coming together a few years ago when I first encountered the idea of shalom – a hebrew word that is translated “peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility.” The concept in a religious context suggests a fullness of peace that God restores through connection of self to all else. When I first learned about shalom, I discovered a “salvation” that inspires me. Up to that point, salvation had often been reduced to my own sin. But that is one small part of the larger problem of disconnect. I know plenty of “righteous” folks who are significantly disconnected. Shalom is far more expansive and what my heart has longed for. Connecting is my path for its pursuit.
May we all feel a sense of connection today. And may we all be a connecting point for another.