One Person. A Hundred Monkeys.

One Person. A Hundred Monkeys.

I got the sad word today. My friend and mentor Sharon had died.

I met her many years ago when I arrived for her five day workshop for abuse survivors.  (She’d staffed and trained staff for Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ Life, Death and Transition workshops.)

Sharon scared me that week. And yet also made me feel safe. She pushed me to go to places I wanted to avoid and pushed me to do work I didn’t want to do. And when I survived all of it I began to hope that healing was possible.

So I kept going  back to workshops.

I was convinced that telling parts of my story would be the end of me. She pushed, and I told and far from being the end of me, it was the beginning. When I needed to wail with the grief deep in my bones, it was Sharon’s hand on my shoulder keeping me grounded, reminded me that I wasn’t alone.

At the close of one workshop Sharon said, “Perhaps one day after you’ve finished your school (I was getting my graduate degree in counseling) you’ll get the training and work on staff.”

Of course, I didi just that. I did my training and then started working as an apprentice in workshops. What an honor it was to be working with that staff. And what an amazing learning experience. It is no exaggeration to say that at least 75% of what I do as therapist I learned from working with them: Sharon, Shannon, Connie, Nancy and David. They were all brilliant and they taught me things about working with wounded people that can’t be learned in a classroom.

Sharon had a masterful intuitive sense and an absolute commitment to what it took to hold a space safe enough for people to do such deep work. As staff, we could do what we did because we knew Sharon was there. She held the safe space for all of us.

She insisted that being on staff meant taking care of your own stuff first. And it meant taking care of any issue that arose between the staff. We had to be clear with each other before we could work clearly with participants. She also taught me about knowing when to say goodbye, retiring her Safe Harbor Workshops long before anyone wanted her to, but also before she grew tired of doing the work.

She was smart and wise and most of all, loving. She (along with the rest of the staff) changed my life. I’m in private practice today because when I finished grad school, I didn’t want some boss saying I couldn’t take a week of vacation to staff a workshop. She made me an infinitely better therapist and a healthier person.

Staffing was hard and demanding work, but such rich work. Being able to share in it along with that staff is one of the greatest blessings of my life. The gift of it still fills me with wonder.

I know Sharon touched hundreds of lives. Through the work that I do now, both as a therapist and as staff of a similar grief workshop, her influence and her work flows on to many more people.

At the close of each workshop Sharon told a story. It was about the hundredth monkey.

The government started studying animal life on a group of Pacific Islands. They noticed on one island monkeys started washing their food. It spread one to another – monkey see, monkey do. That wasn’t so remarkable, except when the number of monkeys reached a critical mass (for simplicity, we call it the hundredth money), monkeys on another island began washing their food.

“We never know,” Sharon said as we stood in our goodbye circle, “who will be the hundredth monkey, who will be the one to be the tipping point.”

On days when I feel discouraged by the amount of need I see and the seemingly impossible mountains before us, I think of that story. And I press on, for who knows who will be that person to be the hundredth monkey, the one voice that begins to tip the scales in favor of love.

I’ve seen it happen, you know.

I’ve seen a stranger step into my life and tip it in ways beyond my ability to dream or to imagine. For such a life, and that it touched my life,  I am grateful

 

 

 

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For the love of God, put the screen down

For the love of God, put the screen down

I was safely ensconced in an easy chair by the fireplace, headphones blocking out most of the chatter around me. On Friday mornings I like to go to places like Panera to take care of tasks like writing, email and yes, blogging.

A different kind of sound that filtered through my headphones caught my attention.

At a nearby table a dad was reading a book to his preschool age boy. The kid’s face shone with the wonder of the story and the anticipation of what was going to happen next.

And maybe with the delight of a bagel and book with his dad.
Maybe such a thing shouldn’t be considered the stuff of heroes but don’t ask his son that. For myself, I’d like to nominate him just for the rarity of the sighting. Far too often  when I’m out and about I see parents and kids and sometimes entire families sitting at tables in silence, heads bowed before their individual screens.

What could be more important than the people you love?

For God’s sake, for the sake of the God who created us to be in community “(it was not good that man should be alone”) put down your phones and shut off your tablets.

Not all of the time. But when we’re with each other.

Because the cat video is probably going to be there later.

Because our time together, while seeming long while we’re living it, in truth passes as fast as a minute. Friends move away and family members die and the presence we took for granted becomes absence.

Because we cannot know each other if we do not tend to each other, and if we do not know each other our connections will always be stunted, falling short of the depth and richness they could bring.

Because that person on the other side of your screen is created in the image of God and may have something to teach you, something to give you, something that encourages you or something that surprises you.

For the love of God and the love of God’s children, put the screen down. There’s a little boy who needs you to read that puppy story again. There’s a spouse who needs you to see them, really see them. There’s a friend who has chosen to spend their precious time with you.

For the love of God, put the screen down.

 

 

 

 

Traveling together through Lent

Traveling together through Lent

Growing up Southern Baptist, Lent wasn’t a really big deal. For us, the holy action didn’t start until Maundy Thursday of Easter week.

As I got older, we got a little more ecumenical and a lot wiser.We started observing Ash Wednesday and having events like lunchtime lenten services. What I’ve learned is that the more I am faithful in this season of preparation, the more meaningful Easter is for me.

There is scholarly disagreement on the actual origins of Lent. A quick Google search will bring up articles as diverse as directions for fasting to explanations as to why it’s a pagan observance shunned by true Christians.

For many of us, Lent is a time when we call ourselves back. We call ourselves back to putting spiritual practice at the top of our to-do lists, instead of in the “if there’s time” section. For some that means more times in prayer or meditation or scripture reading. For some it means reading books that challenge, uplift and encourage their faith. For other is means taking specific actions, whether it’s doing something for someone or making a change in how we live our lives. For some people it means letting go of something… sweets, TV, Facebook or gossip.

For all of us, Lent is an invitation to let ourselves rest in the lap of the God who loves us more than than we can say. It is brushing away the cobwebs to see ourselves again as children of God – flawed and struggling and sometimes falling down on our faces… but beloved children nonetheless.

This year I’m offering a Facebook group, Heart Callings through Lent. Each day I’ll post a brief reflection and you’ll be free to respond, if you so choose. (It will be a closed group so that your posts won’t be public.)

Come and join us. You can read more and find the link here.