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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Have You Had Your Holiday Meltdown Yet?

It was the towel bar that did me in.  My parents were arriving the next day, and the bathroom that they would be using was still not ready.  After a day of frustrating projects and pre Christmas frenzy, I was locked in a life or death struggle with the towel bar. Due to poor design and my staggering ineptitude, I had been brought to my knees. (Imagine if you will, finally getting all the support brackets in place only to find that your measurements are off by a measly half a foot.)

I was snapping at my wife, the kids, the cats, and anything or anyone that crossed my path.  I was Scrooge and the Ghost of Cranky Christmas all wrapped up in one dark holiday package.

The next day I woke up just as angry.  Along with the dangling towel bar, I had to drive an hour and a half to New Hampshire for a staff meeting.  Bah Humbug!

As it turned out, the time alone in the car was exactly the Christmas gift I needed. I clicked off the radio, and tried to open myself to God.  I was given a much needed time of reflection.  I have noticed lately that often what you see in a time of reflection is your own reflection.  Which is probably why we resist it so often.

In this case I was able to look in the mirror and see how insane I had been acting the past 24 hours. I was able to remember the memorial service for a friend just a few days ago, where we were all reminded what was important and what isn’t. (Towel bars are pretty far down the list.) I was able to pick up my cell phone and make the apology I needed to make.  I looked out the car window and for the first time noticed the beauty of a clear winter day.

Mary and Joseph had a much tougher road trip than my trip to New Hampshire.   Much is made of the challenges they faced on that arduous journey to Bethlehem, and with good reason.  But I wonder if it didn’t also help.  I wonder if it didn’t provide much needed reflection time, time to talk or just stare at the countryside.  Time to think and pray about the chaotic and confusing events of life.   Time to look in the mirror and reflect on the kind of person you have been and the kind of person you want to be. Could it be that even the blessed virgin had a holiday meltdown?  I have to believe that even Mary had some thoughts, conversations, and actions she wanted to take back.  

Finding time for reflection can be challenging in these high velocity days leading up to Christmas.  There are towel bars to hang after all.  It simply may not be possible to get the quiet time you need.  But remember:  Joseph and Mary had to go to Bethlehem.  I had to go to New Hampshire.

Is there something you have to do, someplace you have to go, that might provide an opportunity for reflection?  How might you work with the reality of your schedule to find time to look in the mirror?

And from the Board and Staff of Lumunos, blessings for a sacred and meltdown-free Christmas.  

PS:  Make a year end donation to Lumunos, and we will send you a gift towel bar with the words “Breath” inscribed on it.  Maybe.

Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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Friday, December 17, 2010

Who Would You Be?

If you could play any part in the story of Jesus birth, what would it be? I am not talking about donning a striped bathrobe and Burger King crown to be a Wise Man traveling from the east in the Sunday School pageant. I am talking about taking a time machine back, and actually being one of the characters.

(If you are of a faith tradition other than Christian or no tradition at all, humor me. I will be happy to do the same imaginary exercise with your customs.)

I would not choose what is called “The Annunciation,” where the angel announces to Mary that she is going to bear a child. That would have scared me to death. Let’s just say that “Let it be with me according to your word” would not have been my response. Wouldn’t want to be Joseph. The agony of feeling betrayed by Mary, then totally confused with what was going on sounds agonizing. Wise Men? Nope—don’t like to travel this time of year.

No, I would want to be Mary in the months she spent together with her cousin and friend Elizabeth. Through the brief account of their time together, and my imagination, I see two good friends thrown together in a time of crisis and anticipation. Almost like the bond that develops between friends in the military, or some other type of “war.” They needed one another badly, and trusted each other fully. They shared the experience of pregnancy, but probably each in her own way. There is no way Mary and Elizabeth could have understood all that was going on, but they had a deep sense that they were a part of something very important happening in the world. All this in a safe place far from the gossip and icy stares of Mary’s friends back home.

Henri Nouwen wrote about this time:

Waiting is active. Most of us think of waiting as something very passive, a hopeless state determined by events totally out of our hands. The bus is late? You cannot do anything about it, so you have to sit there and just wait. It is not difficult to understand the irritation people feel when somebody says, “Just wait.”’ Words like that seem to push us into passivity.

But there is none of this passivity in scripture. Those who are waiting are waiting very actively. They know that what they are waiting for is growing from the ground on which they are standing. That’s the secret. The secret of waiting is the faith that the seed has been planted, that something has begun. Active waiting means to be present fully to the moment, in the conviction that something is happening where you are and that you want to be present to it. A waiting person is someone who is present to the moment, who believes that this moment is the moment. ….A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.
                                                            Henri Nouwen, A Spirituality of Waiting

That is why I would choose to be Mary in her time with Elizabeth. I want to be that alert, that expectant, that present to what is happening around me. I want to rely on friends, and experience life together. I want to trust that something new is happening in the world, and I have a part to play. And I want to laugh as much as I think Mary and Elizabeth laughed.

How about you? Which part of the nativity would you want to experience? And what does it say about what is going on in your life right now?

Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Gospel of Saturday Night Live

Are you spending money you don’t have this holiday season?

In a recent cover story entitled “The Urge to Splurge,”, Newsweek reports that “the new frugality” is already over and people are spending money they don’t have.  Even though 89% of Americans tell Gallup they’re watching their expenditures very closely, spending is heading back up anyway.

Which leads us to the gospel of Saturday Night Live.  In this clip featuring Steve Martin and Amy Poehler, we see a couple struggling to grasp the concept of not buying something unless they can afford it.  It is very funny and a little painful.

Last week I invited you to use our Advent Reflections to slow down during this holiday season.  In week one, I was struck by the inclusion of these ancient words from the book of Proverbs:  “Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold.”

This “Lady Wisdom” from the Old Testament is no shy, retiring figure.  Listen to her bellow in this translation of Proverbs 8 from The Message.  Pretend someone asked her if they should buy stuff they can't afford.

Do you hear Lady Wisdom calling?  Can you hear Madame Insight raising her voice?  She’s taken her stand at First and Main, at the busiest intersection.
Right in the city square
Where the traffic is thickest, she shouts,
“You—I’m talking to all of you, everyone out here on the streets!
Listen, you idiots—learn good sense!
You blockheads—shape up!
Don’t miss a word of this—I’m telling you how to live well,
I’m telling you how to live at your best.
My mouth chews and savors and relishes truth—I can’t stand the taste of evil!
You’ll only hear true and right words from my mouth
Proverbs 8, The Message

This advent season Lady Wisdom provides a not so subtle reminder that this season is not about what we spend.  Focus instead on relationships; justice; spiritual life, beauty and joy. Be willing to pause to listen for this instruction and guidance.

“O come, thou Wisdom from on high, who orders all things far and nigh; to us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go.”

If you would like to tap into this Wisdom, take some time with the Lumunos Advent Reflections in the next week. Let us know what you are discovering.

Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Meaning of the Music

As long as we are going to hear this holiday music 500 times between now and January 1, wouldn’t it be nice to get something out of it?

Here I am not talking about Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  It is a snappy little Christmas ditty, but I don’t think it is going to help me find meaning and purpose.

But what about an ancient classic like O Come O Come Emmanuel?  (If you have spent any time in churches during Christmas, you have heard this hymn.  But it is also one of those cross over songs that shows up on the holiday albums of Brittany Spears and Foghat.  If you are still drawing a blank, listen here and see if you don’t recognize it.)

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer I could probably figure out on my own. With O Come O Come Emmanuel I’ll need some help.  Thankfully, Lumunos writer Angier Brock has written a series of four reflections on this ancient piece of music.  With her thoughts and questions, I’m hoping O Come O Come Emmanuel will be more than a beautiful piece of music. I’m hoping it will help me navigate the landmines of this season.  I’m hoping it will help me quiet down rather than amp up; simplify rather than add debt; pay attention to important relationships rather than ignore them; and uncover some of the deeper meanings of this time of year that reside below the surface mayhem.  It is a lot to ask of a piece of music I know.  More than anything I think it is the willingness to stop and reflect that does it.

If you care to join me, you can find the reflections here.  There is one for every week leading up to Christmas.  Let me know what you discover, and I’ll do the same.

Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Good in the Bad

“What difficult event from your life can you now genuinely give thanks for?”  That was the Thanksgiving question from our facilitator.

“This could get depressing really fast,” I thought to myself.

As usual, I was wrong.  As person after person spoke, I found myself inspired more than anything.  People have been through a lot—there were stories of health crises, pink slips, divorces, deaths and academic failures.  In general, when more time had elapsed since the event, and when people had done some “inner work”, there was less pain and more gratitude.  There were still scars. But amazingly, people were able to find the good in the bad.  There was genuine gratitude even for the hard things.

There are blessings to be found even in the challenges.  As people spoke, this quote from Helen Keller came back to me:  “I thank God for my handicaps, for through them I have found myself, my work, and my God.”  Painful events can lead us to things well worth finding.

This Thanksgiving, a couple of suggestions.  The first is to sing.  Check out our latest e-news for some ideas on how to do that around the Thanksgiving table.  The second is to include the hard things in your thanksgiving.  Along with the blessings, reflect on the struggles you have faced.  Is there anything in that story for which you can genuinely give thanks?

Tell us, Poet, what do you do?
I praise.  But the deadly and the monstrous things, how can you bear them?
I praise.  But what is nameless, what is anonymous, how can you call upon it?
I praise.  What right have you to be true in every disguise, 
behind every mask?
I praise. How is it that the calm and the violent things
like star and storm know you for their own?
Because I praise.
Rainer Maria Rilke

Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Certain in Our Uncertainty

“I’m not sure if I should hang any pictures on the wall.”  That was my friend’s response after I asked him how his new job was going.  He went on:  “All I know for sure is that I am going to get paid next month.  Beyond that, nothing is guaranteed.”

Last weekend I heard an advertising executive say when asked about trends in marketing:  “Anyone who says they know what is coming next and where this is all going is lying.  They don’t.  None of us do.”

This is the new reality.  I don’t know anyone who is able to be certain about their work future, their health, or what is coming down the pike in their life.  In the ancient words of the King James Bible, “It doth not yet appear what we shall be.

Most of us are a bit on edge about all this uncertainty.  If you are out of work, or have received an ominous medical report, you are probably more than on edge.  Terrified maybe, and I would be too.

In the face of this ambiguity, and in an earlier time, Oswald Chambers wrote:

The nature of spiritual life is that we are certain in our uncertainty.  Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life; gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life.  To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may ring forth. 

Certainty isn’t exactly how I would put it.  There are days when my spiritual life is as uncertain as anything, and I wonder (along with the Psalmist and Jesus) exactly where God has gone.  But there are more days when, if not certain of God’s presence in the uncertainty, I trust it.

 I can live without certainty.  But trust?  That I need.

Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Stalking Your One Necessity

In the wonderful mind of Annie Dillard, weasels teach us something about following our call.

 Dillard speaks of “stalking your calling.”  In her essay Living Like Weasels, she notes the animal’s alertness, single mindedness and tenacity.  She recalled the story of a man who once shot an eagle.  When the man examined the eagle, he found the dry skull of a weasel fixed by the jaws to the throat of the eagle.  Evidently this eagle lived for awhile still with the dead weasel fixed to her throat.

About this story, Dillard writes:

I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you…..The thing is to stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse. 
Teaching a Stone to Talk, p.69

Whether talking about our work, relationships or volunteer efforts, we too must be willing to stalk our calling.   Like the weasel we can be alert, focused and attentive to our lives.  When we sense something that is a “one necessity”, we must go for it, and latch on tight when we find it.

In a related but different way, Parker Palmer makes connections between wild animals and the spiritual world.  He writes,

 Like the wild animal, the soul is tough, resilient, resourceful, savvy, and self-sufficient:  it knows how to survive in hard places….If we want to see a wild animal, we know that the last thing we should do is go crashing through the woods yelling for it to come out.  But if we will walk quietly into the woods, sit patiently at the base of a tree, breathe with the earth, and fade into our surroundings, the wild creature we seek might put in a n appearance. 
A Hidden Wholeness, p. 58 

While Palmer here is speaking of the soul, it applies to listening for call as well. What is common in both stories is the necessity for alertness and quiet attentiveness to our lives.  Sometimes that will lead to a leaping and  latching on to some opportunity,  invitation or “one necessity.”  Other times it will mean sitting quietly and waiting for the call to come to us.

Life is about trying to figure out how to best spend our time and energy, and for whom.   Sometimes we stalk, other times wait.   Blessed is the one who knows the timing of their time.

Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Good to Great to Excellence

Is good the enemy of great?  Or is great the enemy of excellence?

In his book From Good to Great Jim Collins makes the point that settling for good enough can prevent a company from becoming great. We major in too many minor things. Collins encourages companies to find the one thing that they can be great at, and focus on it in a disciplined way.  I believe he is right as far as organizations go.  Our personal life might be a little different.

The Greek word for excellence is arete.   While we live in an era of specialization and “only first place matters”, the Greek understanding was different.  For them excellence had to do with well roundedness.  David Hawkinson writes, “The ideal of arete for a human is not to be the best at one thing, but to give oneself to many things—to be an ‘all-rounder’.”

What does it mean to be in an all-rounder? I am in a month where my work life is involving more travel and therefore more time away from home.  Time with the family and volunteer efforts, not to mention my exercise “discipline” is taking a hit.  Earlier this fall my wife needed to spend a week at her parents. That week my work was the thing that didn’t get the attention it needed. When I focus on a volunteer effort, it usually means missing something else.   Perfect balance is nonexistent in my life.

Taking the Greek idea of arete and running with it (but not in a toga), I would say that excellence requires paying attention to my life.  Noticing when I am out of balance or my actions are not consistent with what I say is important.  Arete requires pausing and checking the dashboard regularly.

I want to be great at work, but not at the expense of my family.  I want to be a great dad and husband, but not at the complete expense of my work. I want to be a great member of the community, both local and distant.  But not if it means sacrificing my health.

Maybe greatness lies in letting each of the important areas of our lives speak to the other.  At any given time one may need more attention, but paying attention all the while to the whole.  Maybe that makes us an all-rounder.  Excellent!

Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How Will You Spend Your Extra Hour?

Yesterday I bought my first copy of O Magazine.  For those of you uncultured souls, the “O” stands for Oprah.  A number of people in the Lumunos network had tipped me off to the November issue.  I am guessing not so much for the cranberry recipes or the “savvy tips on cultivating your own signature style.”  They thought I would be interested in the primary theme, printed in big letters on the cover:  What’s Your True Calling?”  They were right.  

Later that day I somewhat nervously pulled out my O Magazine on the bus ride home. I would like to say that I am secure enough in who I am that I didn’t care if anyone caught me, but that wouldn’t be entirely true.  (Plus, I discovered that even if you do a good job of hiding the cover, all those perfume ads give off overwhelming scents.  I may have been hypersensitive, but it seemed like people three rows away were lifting their heads and smelling the air and looking around.)

The articles on call were pretty good.  As always, some better than others.  There were a number of sidebar stories of women who had made courageous, life giving decisions to change their career.  There was a lot to like in the issue, not the least of which was focusing on calling itself.  We have come a long way from the days when the word call was used only for men and women considering work in the institutional church.  

But here is where I found the biggest difference in Oprah’s interpretation of calling and that of Lumunos.  Call is about work, but it is also about the rest of life. This is one of the reason’s we changed our name from Faith at Work to Lumunos.  We listen for call as it applies to our vocation, but also our relationships, volunteer time, and self care.  Listening for call is about all those things, and it is about how we put them together. Call is about how we juggle, balance and weigh out our various commitments and priorities for the good of God’s world.  

In a totally different section of the magazine, there was a one pager called “What Should I do with My Extra Hour?  (On November 7, we all get an extra hour due to the ending of Daylight Savings time.)  The article listed various options for how you might spend that extra hour, gathered into categories like “Doing Something Charitable”, “Exercising Your Body or Brain”, “Work Around the House”, etc. etc.

Here is my suggestion for the editorial board of O Magazine:  Shift that article into the “Call” Section of the magazine.  Because these kind of decisions can also be call decisions.  Balancing time spent on behalf of others with time spent on ourselves is one of the biggest areas of call we face.  Let’s draw on our deepest wisdom and the wisdom of our faith traditions to decide how we spend our time, even an extra hour in November.

Until I read the article, I had not thought how I would spend my extra hour.  I am going to ponder that question now.  More than likely, I will still use it for an extra hour of sleep.  But if that is true, it the decision will be coming from a deeper place in me.

Call is about all of life.

Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Celebrating the Harvest

There is a 700 pound pumpkin next door.  My elderly neighbor Mr. Young is not young.  But every year, he takes joy in growing enormous pumpkins from small seedlings.  The fragile seedlings begin in little trays in his basement.  After the last frost of the spring they are planted, and then tended by him with loving care all summer and fall. Last weekend a friend came over with a backhoe to move the massive pumpkin from his back yard to the front.  Next weekend his grandchildren will come over and carve it in time for Halloween, removing buckets and buckets of pumpkin guts.  Mr. Young is not one to brag.  But he is clearly  proud of this year’s whopper.

All around us are signs of an abundant harvest. At the farm where my wife works, they had their last CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) pick up last night. Happy customers left with bulging baskets of food and flowers. In Vermont anyway, it has been a good year for all the local CSA’s.  The earth has been particularly generous this season.

In the midst of this abundant harvest, it is worth reflecting back to the planting season.  All this abundance began last spring in the form of seedlings and the back breaking work of planting and tending gardens and pumpkin patches.

Now apply the metaphor to your work and life.  Those of you with particularly good memories will remember last week’s blog about the award winning napkin drawer Jim Dawkins.  I sent Jim a copy of the blog, informing him that he had just received his 15 minutes of fame.

Jim wrote back with a reflection on his work as a professor at Florida State University.  I thought his comments were worth sharing with you in this harvest season.  It is the least I could do for someone who has blown their 15 minutes of fame on my blog.  Jim writes:

The return on my investment (i.e. the success of my own hand) is confirmed when someone else makes something equally or more creative with that particular seed that was planted, either an idea or a full-blown rendering.

Since we're entering the Thanksgiving season it hit me that planting the seed should be celebrated just as much as reaping the fruit during harvest. I can't think of anything specific, but I know there are both simple and elaborate planting festivals or ceremonies all over the world.  I guess where I'm going with this is that my 'simple' act of drawing (and teaching) will hopefully inspire others (my students) to embrace the joy of drawing, of improving an unproven but innate skill, of making something better out of something good. Plant it and enjoy watching it grow. Nothing like "growing" design students at FSU or young professionals in the architecture and interior design business - what a reward!

The earth yields its abundance when we faithfully plant small seeds and tend them.  The university yields creative and caring students when people like Jim Dawkins teach and tend them.

In her book Call to the Soul, Marjory Bankson defines call this way:

Call has to do with discovering our particular field of action or the part of God’s realm that is ours to tend at any given time.”

What seeds are you planting these days?  What garden are you tending?

Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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Thursday, October 7, 2010

When Inspiration Comes (Grab a Napkin)

This is what Jim Dawkins does.  The results are often spectacular, as seen on this video, the picture to the left, and the awards Jim has won.  (Full and Proud Disclosure:  I know Jim through his participation in a Lumunos group.)

There is actually quite a bit out there on napkin drawings these days.  Southwest Airlines  was dreamed up on a napkin.  UPS uses the technique in their ads.  Books have been written about the art.

One of the core principles of napkin drawing is that you use whatever materials are at hand when inspiration strikes.

(Lengthy aside on "when inspiration strikes:"   Inspiration seems to strike many different times and ways:  through conversation, dialogue and the exchange of ideas; while staring at the ocean or mountains; while sitting in traffic; in the shower.  But where does inspiration come from?  I can’t prove this, but I tend to agree with the etymology of the word:  in-spirit-ion.  Inspiration is an inflow of spirit, a Spirit which is Holy, a Spirit which helps us to create. This is consistent with the sacred texts of Judaism and Christianity, where the Spirit brings creativity to artists.)

Sometimes it is best to wait to gather all the proper materials and find the ideal work environment before acting on inspiration or call.  Sometimes it makes sense to find the perfect teammates, the perfect setting, and the perfect time.

But other times the best thing to do is to grab whatever and whoever is available when the call comes.  Beautiful things can come from a coffee stained napkin.

PS  I tried writing this blog yesterday in “perfect” conditions:  at my desk, in front of my computer, reference books and internet within easy reach. Nothing came.  As it turns out, I am scribbling these words out on a piece of scrap paper in my dirty car in the parking lot of Barnes and Noble.  The irony is not lost on me.

Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Call Story #59: Elders and "Small Call"

The service was good at the restaurant. So Bill did what he often does when he eats out:  he took the time to write a simple note on the back of the check, thanking the waitress for her good service.  When asked about this practice, he simply says, “it is part of my call right now. It is what I can do.”

Nell pays attention when she is at the grocery store.  Not just for what is on sale, but for acts of kindness and people who may need a hand.  Sometimes it leads to conversation, which is part of her call—to encourage relationship and community, as well as to find hints and traces of God in daily life.  Even and especially at the grocery store.

Frank gathers with his wife every day at 5pm.  They read something out of a devotional, but mostly practice silence together.  Both Frank and Ruth have been highly active people throughout their life.  They are slowing down now, and this silence together represents a part of their call.

Nell, Frank and Bill are a part of the Lumunos Elder Council.  At one time they served a more active role in the organization, working hard on the Board of Directors. They set strategy, raised money, and led programs. That kind of involvement isn’t right for this stage of their life. But offering their encouragement, support and wisdom on a monthly phone call is.  Lumunos is a better organization because of our relationship with these Elders.

The Elder Council also helps us understand the fullness and diversity of call.  Call is not only about  BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) and grand visions.  Call is about how we act at the restaurant and grocery store.  Call is not only about words, but also about the willingness to keep silent.  Call is about paying attention to the small things that happen in our daily life.

Small acts done out of a sense of call often lead to big things.  For the waitress who has had a long day, picking up a note of appreciation from Bill would make a big difference.  It could turn around a whole day, and that is no small thing.  I imagine this was one reason why Jesus used small images and metaphors—a mustard seed, or lost coin—to speak about his big priorities.

Small acts of call are not just for elders.  Words of encouragement in a restaurant, paying attention in a grocery store, and keeping silence could be small call for us as well.  What represents small call for you?

PS:  If you know an elder that is interesting exploring their call, check out our new workbook:  Looking Back and Giving Forward:  Finding Common Ground for Positive Aging. 

Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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Painting is "The Waitress" by Edouard Manet

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What Comes From the Heart Reaches the Heart

The gospel singer Mavis Staples was 13 and prancing around the stage, imitating the group that performed before her and not being herself. Her father pulled her aside and said “Mavis, you be sincere. What comes from the heart reaches the heart.”   Mavis never forgot those words.

Pops Staples was right.  There is no more powerful way to communicate than speaking from the heart.  It doesn’t matter if the context is a difficult work conversation, a discussion with a family member, or an email to a friend.  Listening to our hearts is the first step in good communication.

“Deep calls to deep” wrote the Psalmist. “What is most personal is most universal” said Henri Nouwen.  If you are looking for an effective communication strategy, it seems like this is it. Take the time to listen to your heart, and then speak from that deep place. Coming from the heart is no guarantee that what we say will be received well.  Communication is a complex thing with land mines all over the place. But it is easier to let go of another’s response if we have taken the time to listen to our own heart before speaking.   

Mavis was so grief stricken when her father died, she stopped singing.  Now she has started again, and is clearly singing from her heart.  Listen to her new song “You are Not Alone” (written by Jeff Tweedy from the band Wilco).  It spoke to my heart.  Does it speak to yours?  

Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Call Story #58: Forgiveness

As it turns out, some tigers have a hard time forgiving.  There is a new book out by John Vaillant called The Tiger.  One part of the story involves an Amur (Siberian) tiger who was wronged by a human. The man shot the tiger without killing him, and then took the tiger’s kill. After a period of time, the tiger tracked down the man in his cabin, destroyed anything with the man’s scent on it, and then killed him.   It is a primal and extreme version of a drama and an emotion that happens every day in the human arena.

We humans hold grudges.  We remember wrongs.  We seek revenge. We struggle to forgive.  And sometimes we rise above it.

My friend Brad has just been wounded by his family of origin.  Again.  For the 100th time his parents and siblings have found a way to stick the knife in, this time by not inviting him into a conversation that involved the whole family. Rather than exact some sort of revenge, or nurse his resentments, Brad did the harder thing.  Over the course of a few days, he looked squarely at the hurt and allowed himself to feel the grief.  He didn’t hide his feelings from the family. He took a few walks and received the support of friends.  It took time and energy.  Following call always does.

But he did the work, and now he has been able to re-engage the family in a way that is nothing short of inspiring to me.  Where anger and revenge would be understandable, I see grace and even support of his family.

Wendell Berry knows something about the struggle to forgive his family. In his poem A Letter (to my brother) he writes:

Dear John,
You said, “Treat your worst enemies
As if they could become your best friends.”
You were not the first to perpetrate 
such an outrage, but you were right.
Try as we might, we cannot
unspring that trap.  We can either
befriend our enemies or we can die
with them, in the absolute triumph 
of the absolute horror constructed 
by us to save us from them. 
Tough, but “All right,” our Mary said,
“we’ll be nice to the sons of bitches.
Wendell Berry, Leavings

Forgiveness is an outrage.  It is a call that requires hard work, lots of help and usually time. The only thing worse is the opposite—what Berry calls “the absolute triumph of the absolute horror constructed by us to save us from them.”

Reflection Questions
With whom are you angry?  Is there work you need to do?  Are you called to forgive yet?

Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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Photo by John Goodrich

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Real Work

In what has become a well known poem, Marge Piercy writes:

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
Has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil, 
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
But you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
And a person for work that is real. 
"To be of use", from Circles on the Water

“Real work” can take many different forms. Like the pitcher that cries for water, we are made for meaningful work, not to be put up on a museum shelf.  Sometimes real work is teaching. Sometimes it is managing.  Sometimes it is volunteering  Sometimes it is parenting.  And sometimes real work means participating in your own rescue.

I have been gripped by the plight of the trapped miners in Chile. Psychologists tell us that, along with food and notes from above, these men need real work.   They will emerge from this disaster more whole if they can be “partners in their rescue.” Clearing rock and rubble become real work if it leads to your liberation. This is the opposite of being a pitcher sitting on a museum shelf.  It is scratching and clawing for your very survival.

 What does “real work” look like at this stage in your life? How might participating in your own liberation be a part of it?

Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Catching Up With Yourself

Jane went over her handlebars while mountain biking last week.  She got banged up pretty good, requiring a week of recovery in bed.

When I asked her how she was doing, her reply struck me.  “I could deal without this gaping wound on my face.  But truthfully, it has been kind of nice.  I feel like I have caught up with myself….maybe for the first time in a long time.”

Later that day, I thought about her words.  I have caught up with a few old friends this summer.  I have caught up with my brothers.  I have caught up on my emails.  But have I caught up with myself?

The poet David Whyte says this about a time when he needed to catch up with himself:

I was looking for David because I had become a stranger to myself and didn’t even have time for a snatched conversation about things that really mattered to me.  I was looking for David because some inner relationship had been neglected and taken for granted; I had become like an old married couple who had stopped talking years before, the inner friendship with my old self slowly tearing apart under the strain. Behind the curtain was a man who was afraid to cross a threshold of visibility needed to make his place in the world. 
Crossing the Unknown Sea, p. 126

There are many ways to catch up with yourself—walks, art, prayer and journaling to name a few.  Or here is an idea:  While taking a walk or sitting in a favorite place, ask yourself this question:  What have I felt the past few days?  (Anger?  Joy?  Energy?)  Why?  What is going on below the surface?

Our relationship with ourselves is similar to other relationships.  It can be ignored or fed, disregarded or strengthened. If we are going to make a difference in the world, we will need to regularly catch up with ourselves.

(Hopefully without flying over the handlebars of our bike.)

Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Different Take on the Energy Conversation

There is a much needed conversation in this country right now about energy.  The headlines tend to be about sources of alternative energy; dependence on foreign oil; drilling in the Arctic; and whether or not the president has enough votes to pass an energy bill. All of these are important topics.  But just for a moment, I would like to steer the energy conversation a different direction.

For a moment, forget oil, solar, wind, and nuclear.  Consider another energy source. It is free.  It is renewable.  Accessing it does not depend on the politics of a Middle Eastern country.  It will not foul the ocean.   It also will not power your cars or light your house.  But when tapped into, it creates enough force to change the world.

It is hard to know what to call this power source, but when we drill down into it, energy is created. I am talking here about that place within us where the things we care deeply about reside—our values, passion, and what Merton called True Self. The best name I have come up with for this is “call.”

When we hear a call, energy is released.  This energy translates into risk taking, perseverance, courage and creativity.  We are able to do things we previously didn’t think we could do. The world has been made better in big and small ways by people fueled by call energy.

As the owner of a chain of bike stores, Tom Henry, is already passionate about alternative energy.  But he also knows about call.  I once asked him why he spends time and company resources on helping his employees listen for their call.  He said, “As a leader in this company, part of my job is to find places of untapped energy.  I know that when people are working from a sense of call, there is energy there.”

A few other things about Call Energy:

1. Call Energy is Renewable Energy:  It isn’t that we don’t get tired or discouraged when we are following a call.  We do, because call is usually hard work.  But the energy returns.  Spending our time and energy on things that don’t matter to us usually leads (eventually) to burnout.  When we expend energy on something that we feel passionate about, the energy returns. I believe this is because there is a larger energy source feeding our call energy. To use an image from the Judeo-Christian tradition, we become like a tree by a river, continually fed by that larger river source.

2. Call Energy is Energy that Also Benefits Others: When we feel called to do something, it is very personal—it is about the things that matter to us.  But it is not just about us.  The Giver of this energy source (see above) cares about the common good, and so call energy is given for the benefit of others as well.

3. Accessing Call Energy is Easy; Figuring Out How to Use it is Hard:  What do you care about?  What makes you angry or joyful?  What breaks your heart?  Most of us have a sense of what is important to us.  Figuring out how to translate that into our lives is the tricky part.  It can be done, but not without compromise and community.  Compromise because following call always involves leaving something behind.  Community because without relationship, we cannot consistently access our call energy.

Are you tapping into your call energy?

Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Ann Rice is No Longer a Christian

While I was away on vacation, the novelist Ann Rice stopped being a Christian.  This is what she said on her Facebook page:

"For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being 'Christian' or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to 'belong' to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else."

There is a lot to talk about in Rice’s statement, more than one blog could carry.  Reading her words, and hearing the subsequent interview on NPR, I found myself feeling a lot.   The emotions range from impatience to jealousy, and everything in between.  As a churchgoer, I am impatient with people who leave because of the “quarrelsome, hostile” nature of the church.  The church, like every other gathering of human beings, is filled flawed human beings. But also as a churchgoer, I am jealous because in many ways and for many of the same reasons, I would like to walk out the door with her. Maybe she is just more courageous than I.

Ann Rice is not the first, nor will she be the last to make distinctions between being committed to Christ and being a Christian. ABC News Editor and ordained minister Dr. Timothy Johnson is not as pessimistic about the church as Ann Rice.  But in his book Finding God in the Questions he writes: “This is just one of the many reasons why I have come to prefer the phrase  “follower of Jesus” rather than the label “Christian”. The latter word too often simply indicates blind support of the various aspects of the religion called Christianity” (p.134).

I do not pretend to know what is right for Ann Rice.  I do believe that some people are called to stay within our organizations and be what John Gardner called “loving critics.”  Others are called to work for change from outside the organization.  Each has a perspective that is unique. Either can be a faithful call.

I do know that we need community to grow spiritually.  It is not possible to be a follower of Jesus (or any faith I presume) without relationships.   Killian Noe writes in Finding Our Way Home:

Just as some biological families are healthier than others, so are some spiritual families. But the fact remains: we must have some spiritual family if we are to grow up spiritually. We must have context—or what Parker Palmer calls a ‘congruent community’—if we are to become who we were created to become. If we are to become our truest selves—created in the image of God to love as God loves, to forgive as God forgives and to pour out our lives as Jesus did for the sake of the whole human family—then we must grow and mature in the context of a spiritual family…

As you may know, there is a saying in the 12-step program that goes, “We will love you ’til you love yourself.” God works through people to reveal to us the truth that we are loved, like the prodigal, while we are still a ‘long way off’ from being who we were created to be. It is tempting to separate the love of God from the love of community—to sever the head from the body—but we only come to know ourselves as truly loved in the context of authentic community, where we are both known and loved.

As a churchgoer, I grieve wounds of the traditional church today.  Clearly we have not been our best self as an organization. We can do better, and for those of us in churches there are many hard questions we need to face.

At the same time I am also excited about the new forms of “congruent community” that are springing up within and outside of the traditional church.  There are many people and places out there that are holding people as they seek to grow in faith. I hope Ann Rice has, or finds, such a place to grow.

PS:  If you belong to an authentic spiritual community, let us know…maybe there are other readers of this blog in your area looking for such a place.

Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Summer Vacation 2010

How’s your summer vacation?

Remember when summer vacation was from one school year’s end to the beginning of the next school year? As a kid, it seemed like the summer was a long stretch of time for play, relaxation, summer camp, swim lessons, family visits and trips—even across country. By the end of summer vacation, I had somehow grown up enough to be ready for the new school year in the next grade whether it was second grade, 8th, or finally 12th grade.

Now as an adult, summer vacation comes and goes in a flash. I usually have fun, travel a lot to see kids and grandkids, rest a little (maybe not), and I eat too much. Adult vacation is usually defined by being away from work and still being paid. Some say that going barefoot is a sure sign that you are on vacation. Pictures or videos tell the story, too. I just saw my daughter’s pictures of her vacation on Facebook. She and her husband looked so relaxed in the Rockies riding horses, hiking, and taking in the beautiful scenery of Colorado. Now that’s a vacation!

The word vacation is from the Latin word vacare, to be empty, at leisure. I’ve had one week of vacation from work this summer so far—a family reunion in the quiet and beauty of the state park in Indiana where my daughter lives. It was extra-ordinary! “Ordinary” in that 15 of us just hung out together and experienced the rhythms of each day without work pressures cooking and eating together, playing the spontaneous games that broke out with the grandkids, and telling stories about our lives over the past year. “Extra” in that all of us were at leisure and enjoyed being with each other—at least for a few days. One early morning awake before everyone else, I even found a moment of “emptiness” which gave me more space for being blessed by the presence of 14 other people that day.

This summer vacation has taught me to prepare for my next vacation by under-planning and letting empty space fill with a bounty of being with people I love as we tell stories and let the unexpected happen.

How has your summer vacation been or is it yet to be? How did you prepare for vacation (besides the packing preparations)? What will you remember from your vacation in the dead of winter? Did you  experience a sense of leisure? Was there a moment when you felt “empty” of all the pressures of everyday life?

Happy Summer Vacation!

by Betsy Perry, Guest Blogger while Doug is on his vacation.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Are you taking care of something, steadily, repeatedly, regularly, and not sure why you are doing so?  Do you ever keep at something, despite having mediocre-to-no-good results? Tending my garden is like that for me. Sometimes tending my call is like that, too.

For the garden, I read the instructions on the seed packets.  I try to learn the sunny spots, the shady spots, the partially sunny spots, the dappled shade spots.  I try to manage the compost, the water drainage, the weeds, the non-native invasives, the mulch, and the slugs.

For my call, my good work in the world which is part of creating the kingdom of God here on earth, I pay attention; I listen for guidance. I go to groups of like-minded people for support, or learn from lectures and readings for inspiration.  I pray, and I work.

Often, it seems most of my effort is in vain.  In the garden, is anything beautiful growing?  With my call, is more good happening in the world?

I recently was inpsired by the gardens in Maine - such color!  all native plants! perennials! easy care! So I came back to tend our garden here with renewed vigor.  I trotted out to the most forlorn spot - over taken by crabgrass and other scary weeds that I can't figure out how to manage. slowly and steadily I worked... surely something good can come from all this effort, eh?  Lo and behold! There was an itty bitty "Sacred Datura" plant.  Do you know this plant?  It's a wonder.

It is vespertine, meaning it's a night-flowering plant, attracting the nector-seeking night creatures such as bats and moths, which is why I love it. It looks like a very large morning glory, but is more closely related to petunias and tomatoes than those morning vines.  It grows wild along the banks of the Potomac River here in VA; it's origins are from the tropics, where varieties of the plant are still used by the shamans of South America. 
Datura growing along Potomac River

TWO YEARS AGO I gathered some seeds from their prickly pods along the river, and lovingly planted them in what I thought was good soil. I tended them well, for two years, and got no results.  Alas - a regular expereince for me.  This year, I'd given up. And wouldn't you know it - there is the beautiful wonderplant Datura, growing strong, all on it's own.

Madeleine L'Engle said a little benign neglect is good for children, the garden, and the soul. This seems true in my garden. I am wondering if it is also true in tending my call. 

by Tiffany Montavon

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Where Do You Get Your "Call" Stories?

It’s the birthday of Henry David Thoreau, who said, "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

If you heard me say the above sentence in the unmistakable voice of Garrison Keillor, then you are a fan of the Writers Almanac.  It happens to come on to my local NPR station at 8:37am each morning, which means I often hear it on my way to work.

In just a few minutes time, Keillor manages to tell what I see as “call stories”-- examples of novelists, poets, and other people who are doing or have done what they do out of a sense of passion and deep values.  The example above of Thoreau is typical.  The words come to me as I drive down the highway in my Volkswagen, heading to work where I will type on a computer while sitting in air conditioned comfort.  It is not exactly Walden.  Still, I find the Writer’s Almanac actually helps me to live, as Thoreau said, more “deliberately.”  When I am told the life stories of others, hearing of their perseverance and conviction, it helps me to live with perseverance and conviction as well.

Almost every day there is some example of what it means to live your call from of Writer’s Almanac.  Here are a few examples from the past few days of the show:

*The call to create something good out of a painful situation:  “After a young pig he was raising got sick and he failed to save its life, he (E.B. White) wrote one of his most famous essays, "Death of a Pig." Then he wrote a children's novel in which the pig doesn't have to die: Charlotte's Web (1952). It's the story of a runt pig named Wilbur who is saved the first time by a little girl and the second time by a wise spider. It is one of the best-selling children's books of all time.”

*The call to persevere:  “Mystery Novelist Donald Westlake got 204 rejection slips before his first book was published.”

*The call to both activism and enjoyment:   "My conviction simply is that power must always be defeated, that the struggle must always continue to defeat power. I don't go looking for fights. I'm really a very lazy person. I enjoy my peace and quiet. There's nothing I love better than just to sit quietly somewhere, you know, have a glass of wine, read a book, listen to music."  (Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka)

*The call to improve things through satire:  "Satire is the bringing to ridicule of vice, folly and humbug. All the negatives imply a set of positives. Certainly in this country, you only go round saying, 'That's wrong, that's corrupt' if you have some feeling that it should be better than that. People say, 'You satirists attack everything.' Well, we don't, actually. That's the whole point." (Ian Hislop, editor of The Private Eye)

And finally back to E.B. White for my favorite “call” line of the past few days:
"I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day."

Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mike Bikes

As I head into work this morning, I see Mike riding by on his bike.  Mike owns the local bike shop, and every day I see him ride his bike to and from work. Mike sells bikes, and he rides bikes.  This is one definition of integrity—“the quality or state of being undivided.”

What “business” are you in?  Are you living it?

PS  I pay a steep price when I live a divided life—feeling fraudulent, anxious about being found out, and depressed by the fact that I am denying my own selfhood.  The people around me pay a price as well, for now they walk on ground made unstable by my dividedness.  How can I affirm another’s identity when I deny my own?  How can I trust another’s integrity when I defy my own?  A fault line runs  down the middle of my life, and whenever it cracks open—divorcing my words and actions from the truth I hold within—things around me get shaky and start to fall apart. 
                             Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness

Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How to Win the World Cup, Improve Health Care, and Defeat the Taliban

I sat over a cup of tea talking to a doctor.  He told me that he almost didn’t come to the physician colleague group I have been running at his hospital because it sounded too “touchy feely.”  I smiled, appreciating his honesty.  He is not alone—many busy people believe that getting to know one another below the surface is a time luxury they simply can’t afford.

In my opinion, we can’t afford not to.

France’s soccer team was supposed to contend for the World Cup.  Instead they totally imploded in a spectacular display of disunity.   General Stanley McChrystal was relieved of his duties in Afghanistan, not because of his performance on the battle field.  Rather it was a breakdown of trust and communication between him and President Obama.

In the meantime, I am hip--deep in studies showing that patient outcomes improve at hospitals where the staff pays attention to teambuilding.

Anyone who has ever been in a relationship knows that they aren’t easy.  Whether talking about a soccer team, running a war, or working in an emergency room, working together is complicated.  Each of us is an intricate, knotty, convoluted blend of neurons and needs, light and lunacy.  Add the pressure of whatever the battlefield represents in your work, and it makes for a sensitive environment.

Most research indicates that the simple act of knowing one another at a deeper level improves communication and work performance. Taking a few moments to deepen relationships amongst colleagues when you are not in the heat of the battle usually improves team performance when you are there.

I am pleased to report that the aforementioned doctor is now an active part of our physician colleague group. He is honest, authentic and articulate.  If I ever found myself on my back in an emergency room, I would hope to see his face looking down on me.  Along with an appreciation for his medical skills, I would be glad to know that he is a part of a team that communicates well.

Working on our relationships with colleagues is not a touchy-feely luxury.   It can be the difference between winning or losing, life or death.

Question:  How is your team functioning?  What can you do to make it better?

Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ending Well

This is an interesting time of year.  There are many new beginnings, with something fresh coming up in the garden almost every week.  But it is also a time of endings.  School years, graduations, and programs that have run since September are winding down.

This week my daughter had her last day of school.  Last week I participated in the Memorial Service of a cherished mentor.  Later this summer a friend is moving.   All of them endings of one kind or another.

Ending well matters for many reasons. Management expert William Bridges once said “In my work I see teams, departments and sometimes entire companies fall apart because they never found a way to grieve over a significant loss.” (Managing Transitions, p. 26)  Ending well is the first step toward whatever is going to come after the ending.

Clearly ending a school year and grieving a beloved family member is not the same thing. There are risks to generalizing.  But all are kinds of endings, and I see some similarities.  Here is a start:

1. Ending well means acknowledging pain:  Ending usually hurts.  There are good times to celebrate that will be missed.  There are people who have been important that we will not see.  Something that once had meaning for us will no longer be there.  Even if the event or person has been challenging, there is a lot of ourselves we have put into the experience.  Sometimes there is the acknowledgement that dreams we thought would come into fruition have not.  Endings are about limits, something we humans generally find painful.

2. Ending well means expressing gratitude:   Often our gratitude is obvious—students can give thanks for teachers and what they have learned; mourners can give thanks for the time they had with their loved one; laid off employees can give thanks for what their experiences have taught them.  The beloved friend I am missing used to say “Nothing is wasted.”  God can use any experience, even the hard ones.  There is much to grateful for.

3. Ending well creates space for what is next:  Ending well is really the first step for what comes next.  Releasing something or someone means that are hands are now free to receive whatever is the next call.  We will be more open to the next job, next relationship, next task if we have lived fully into our goodbye.

Just one example:  A group of Lumunos folk who have put on a conference every year for the past 30 or so are wondering if the time has come to stop meeting.  So there is an email exchange happening as they process this important moment.  This morning I was moved to read these words from the unofficial chaplain of the group:

Pictures of their faces come to mind as I write. I remember once feeling like I was walking alongside one unknown, whose life was really a death, hidden cave-like behind boulders of guilt and shame. There is life in this person now, an identity acknowledged and accepted, that was birthed in the FAW/Lumunos community. I've witnessed literally hundreds of faces, bearing the pressures to keep life afloat, loose those marks; replaced by the glow drawn from the flow of the Spirit moving through our small groups. I cherish those memories and celebrate those lives..

 And I'm grieving those faces I won't see again until we eat together at the table our Lord is preparing for us all. My sense is my call is to say good bye. Goodbye to a community and a process that gave me a place. A safe place to love and be loved. If the time has come for us all to bid good bye to this weekend in February, then the time has come for me to thank all of you for making it all happen.

Did you hear it?  Acknowledgment of pain.  Expression of gratitude.  And the realization that saying goodbye is a kind of call in its own right.  One that makes room for a new call.

What else makes for ending well?

Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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Friday, June 4, 2010

Call Story #57: What Am I Doing in this Dumpster?

Every day people are living out their call in a million different ways.  Today’s call story involves a mother and a trash can.

Lisa McCarthy started a recycling program at Mark Twain Elementary School in Long Beach, CA. It sounds much easier than it actually was. When Lisa first realized how much was being thrown out at lunch time, she approached school officials. They approved the creation of the recycling program - if Lisa did everything herself.

In Lisa’s story, there are a number of themes common to people following their call.  While sometimes these moments happen in neat, chronological order, more often they pop up at random times:

1. The “Uh Oh” Moment:  Lisa describes the moment when she realized how much recyclable trash was being thrown out.  “Uh oh” she thought.  “I am going to have to do something about this.” It is that moment when we realize that we are being called to act, and our action is not necessarily going to be fun or easy.  We need to do it, but something inside of us (rightly) says, “This will be hard.”  In her book Call to the Soul, Marjory Bankson names this resistance to call.

2. The “You are on the Right Track” Moment:  Lisa started talking about the problem to other parents, and a lot of heads started nodding.  Not everyone thought she should do something about it.  (See below)  But people she trusted consistently said, “Yes, this is right.” Confirmation of call from others is important, or we risk misreading the signals we are getting.

3. The “Start Simple or you Won’t Start” Moment:  By her own admission, Lisa didn’t know what she was doing.  (“I didn’t even know what I didn’t even know.”)  But she didn’t have the luxury of developing a well thought out plan, tested and evaluated.  For a variety of reasons, she needed to act quickly.  So she acted in some simple and basic ways, just taking the first small steps forward to developing a recycling plan for the school cafeteria.  Making it up as you go is often a part of the early stages of following a call. Change expert Robert Quinn calls this “building the bridge as you walk on it.”

4. The “Oh Oh” Moment, Part 2:  If the first resistance comes from inside us (see #1), the second often comes from others.  In Lisa’s case, it was the school cafeteria employees who were not pleased.  Lisa was upsetting standard practice that had been in place for years.  Following her call meant others needed to change, and that didn’t make them happy.   In a variety of ways she was seen as an enemy to the cafeteria employees.  Following call usually means doing something that someone isn’t going to like.

5. The “What Am I Doing Upside Down in this Dumpster?” Moment:  One day a few months in, the janitor inadvertently threw out some recyclables that Lisa had worked hard to separate the day before.  So there she was, halfway in the dumpster, fishing around for juice boxes that were recyclable.  It was emblematic of the many moments she questioned why she was following this call.  Along with angry cafeteria workers and dumpster diving, her own kids resisted initially.  “I am just trying to do a good thing here”, she thought.  “Why is this so hard?”  These moments do not necessarily mean you are doing the wrong thing.

6. The “I Am Making a Difference” Moment:  It is now a few years later, and Lisa can see the difference she has made.  Some of it is easy to measure:  Since starting recycling, the cafeteria now throws away only one barrel of trash a day, rather than eight.  Sometimes our “I am making a difference” moments are less concrete or measurable.  We need to have them in some form, or we cannot keep going.  And sometimes we need others to point them out to us, because, well, we are halfway in the dumpster.

7. The “Give it Away” Moment:  Lisa persevered, and by the second year she had established the Green Team at Mark Twain Elementary School.  Now many of the students are eager to join with Lisa and other volunteer parents.  At some point the work needs to be shared or given away.

What is your call these days?  Do you recognize any of these moment?

Lisa McCarthy’s story can be found on the archives of the radio show The story.  And for another recycling story, check out Marty Resotko’s article from the Lumunos archives.

Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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