CELEBRATE: Healing Spaces
The flower arrangement at the table’s middle overflowed out of the top of a mended pot. Like all of the other centerpieces at the fundraising event, this one sat next to a card which explained the Japanese method of Kintsugi (where broken pottery repaired with lacquer mixed with gold dust is thought to be more beautiful than when it was whole). The entire tone of the event whispered, “Keep going . . . “
Hundreds of women (and a few men) gathered to listen to Redbird Foundation founder Paula D’Arcy talk about healing after loss. She shared about losing her husband and young daughter in a drunk-driving car accident, giving birth to the child she was pregnant with at the time of her survival, and dedicating the rest of her life to making spaces in which people can heal from trauma and tragedy. It is hard to hear and hold a story of heartbreak such as hers; equally hard to not be moved by it.
Her stories of pain, of personal (and miraculous) healing, and of ongoing work in therapy and retreats were inspiring. But the highlight of the morning for me was the space that was made for the event guests to participate in the connecting power of healing alongside her. Woman after woman answered the open-invitation to share a moment when they too experienced healing after loss and pain.
One spoke about recovery, two about losing husbands suddenly, one about disease. They shared about the friends that helped them practice reporting shocking news to their children and the people in their lives who were able to bring the gift of humor to tragic times. After each story, the event’s musician would create a song for the woman who had just been so vulnerable. People wiped their eyes as the songwriter used their words and their suffering to reach us all on a different level with art and beauty.
Paula rose to speak one more time before our morning together was done. And she said very matter-of-factly, “Our pain must move to heal. Otherwise, it becomes a part of our physical selves.”
At that moment, I had language for several instances in my life when healing had happened for me as well: after losing someone to cancer, after moving, after a transition, after depression, after ministries ending. The most momentous experiences in healing for me took place when coupled with music, space for vulnerability, conversations around meals, retreats where opportunities to connect and share were facilitated, walks in nature, etc. My most momentous experiences in healing had some form of movement incorporated into them, helping to usher my pain (albeit ever so slowly) through my body and my life so that it didn’t have to become intrinsically woven into my self, doing more damage than loss had already caused.
This weekend and today, I am celebrating the space-makers who are helping pain move in the lives of others. It is important work that requires vulnerability and creativity and a hope that knows, assuredly, that healing is possible.
“So if you’d be interested in possibly adding more to your policy, I brought the paperwork for you today,” my life-insurance agent said as he pushed a stack of forms across the table.
“Oh, no, I’m sorry. We still aren’t able to do that with our current budget. Thank you though,” I said, reiterating what I’d mentioned a year before.
“Still not? Ok, ok,” he responded, nicely. I blushed with our lack of wiggle-room. It’s a different time, I had to remind myself. He and I became adults at different times.
When I graduated college in 2009 with an ambiguous, $100K Liberal Arts Degree, the keynote speaker of our ceremony said confidently during his speech, “You are entering the workforce during the worst year in history since the great depression.” I don’t remember another sentence that was shared. And he wasn’t wrong.
Millennials, like me, are not an un-studied group of people. A simple google search can show you that folks are trying to figure us out and rationalize why so many young adults are marrying later, having kids later, declaring careers later, and moving out of their parents’ houses later. Often, the boomers call it entitlement and prolonged adolescence. But those of us who entered the workforce “during the worst year in history” since the ‘30s see it differently.
We know that we live in a time when creative start-up careers often have more potential for job-growth than staying at the same company for a decade. We know that cost-of-living raises are far less common than threats about job cuts and that “climbing the ladder” might as well be a mythical concept except for in a very few trades. We know that 30-year olds today make about as much as 30-year olds were making the year we were born. We know that prices have increased for cars, homes, gas, phones, and medicine over those last three decades; and that having a masters is comparable to what having a college degree once was, except it all costs that much more.
Knowing this, I grieve when I see people, Christian church leaders specifically, who reference this generation as being enabled or lazy. I cringe when the overused sentiment of “participation trophies” is thrown about to dismiss why someone in their 20s and 30s might be upset about the language used or policies passed. I cry when I watch churches create parodies that mock the very demographic that they blame for a mass exodus, that they wish would fill their pews once again. I blush when they begin asking why church-goers my age who are still in attendance don’t give financially like they’re more faithful predecessors.
We live in an expensive time to be a young adult (not to mention being an under-resourced, under-networked, minority young adult). It is my hope that the church at least might recognize the complexities of our current times and begin asking the good questions that can help us better understand the economic layers of millennials existences and how that does and doesn’t play a part in their connection to the institutional body of faith at large.