Dan and I made a number of connections this past month, among them a large Christmas gathering with family, a writers’ critique group meeting, and a last-minute drive to Seattle to catch the premier screening of a film—made by a friend, and featuring another friend.
A couple weeks back, Dan and I spent four days with family at a large, vacation cabin with a snowy pond dominating the backyard landscape. There were 20 of us. Dan’s kids and grandkids. My kids and grands. And a few hangers-on.
Reserving a place for our families was potentially risky. And messy. No guarantees there wouldn’t be any tension. Or wounded feelings. No assurances that the teens wouldn’t get bored.
Turns out, the kids found plenty to keep themselves entertained. (Have you ever watched a soccer game on ice?)
There was no tension in the air, even when gifts were unwrapped and stolen (white elephant gifts, but still).
There was much food, and much laughter, and much bonding during those days at a gorgeous vacation cabin in central Oregon.
Not long after, the monthly meeting of my writers’ critique group assembled at our house—these writerly friends who are a gift to me because they care about the success of my writing.
Joining a critique group can be hazardous. It opens us up for … well, for critique. But when we know these people want the best outcomes for us and our writing, what better gift?
And then last week, Dan and I made a quick trip to Seattle to view the documentary, Space, Hope and Charity, premiering at the annual conference of the American Astronomical Society. The film was produced, directed, and written by my friend, Sandy Cummings, and features my friend Charity Woodrum in her journey to astrophysics despite unspeakable tragedy.
Charity was nervous about the Q&A following the film. This would be a tough audience – these mad scientists with their non-emotional, intellectual matter-of-fact-ness.
The questions and comments were excellent, including those from a few men who still carried emotion in their voices. A woman from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration stood up and complimented the film and all involved, and encouraged Charity to come work at NASA.
Dinner afterwards was a hoot. Eight of us gathered around a table for Italian food, and conversation, and stories about Charity—all wrapped in uproarious laughter.
Jumping into a vehicle for a 600-mile, round-trip drive over the Cascade Range in January snow and rain probably doesn’t make that much sense. But it was so worth it as Charity expressed how our presence helped calm her nervousness.
Friends who feel like family
Chip and Joanna Gaines have a manifesto for their business that reads, in part:
We believe in friendship,
because friends who feel like family are the best kind of friends,
and that nothing matters more than family.Magnola Manifesto
I think it’s safe to say that Dan’s people and mine are friends as well as family. That my writerly friends are my sisters, my family of support. That Charity and all the people who have embraced her during this season of incomprehensible loss and pain … well, these people are my people, too.
Many of us understand the physical and mental health benefits of living connected within community vs. braving the world alone. But have we thought much about the component of reinforcement that takes place within community?
Synonyms for reinforce are words like support, undergird, build up, make stronger, validate, confirm.
The bonds that Dan’s and my family already had were undergirded and strengthened at the Christmas cabin. Time spent with my writers’ group, sharing my heart through my written words, is always confirming and validating. Our quick trip to Seattle to support and encourage Charity was fun beyond description.
And so …
Speak courage and hope to each other.
Plan road trips to nowhere, but also road trips to somewhere.
Bond with the people God has graced us with.
Make fun. Make memories.
Don’t live in the margin of ‘someday’—someday we’ll all get together over the holidays. Someday I’ll write an article or a book and someday I might even let someone read my writing. Someday I’ll see the film.
Because there are no guarantees that someday will ever arrive.
Live in the gift that is today—the gift that affords connection and allows the spreading of hope and reinforcement to one another.
From our experience at the late-Christmas-three-generation-family-gathering, here are 8 tips for better living within community:
- Play more often on slickery ice
- Frost more sugar cookies
- Hide more often in pantries
- Visit more museums
- Steal more (white elephant) gifts from each other
- Build more snowmen
- Honor each other more
- Throw more snowballs