It Takes a Village

I wanted her to see that the only life worth living is a life full of love; that loss is always part of the equation; that love and loss conjoined are the best opportunity we get to live fully, to be our strongest, our most compassionate, our most graceful selves. 

~ Pam Houston

Greg leaves this Sunday for twelve days in Israel. Perhaps not coincidentally, his Desert Ride, Sacred Journey comes during a time of great transition.

One of the changes is that this is the first week of my new full-time job at Jvillage Network.

Gratitude does not describe how I feel about having landed in this awesome start-up right here in Burlington, where among other things, I get to peruse blogs about Disruptive Spiritual Innovation and laughter and Kabbalah, then come up with creative ways for synagogues to use these as membership engagement tools on their websites.

It was an emotional day, the first day of the rest of my life, as it were (as if there were any other kind really). So many moments when I could succumb to doubting myself as a parent or panicking about the future or feeling overwhelmed by things that are either long gone or not even here yet. Then I remember, or at least try, to pause, count my breaths from one to ten and over again, step out into the rain or the sun, from pavement to grass, from screen to sky.

And so you return to beginner’s mind. You laugh until you cry, you cry until you laugh. You buy yourself a cute new skirt, love and loss two facets on the same jewel. And you feel it then, as you listen and look at these gorgeous faces from around the world singing together: It’s all one life. It’s all one love. Anything else is projection, illusion, fear, or fantasy.

And I just realized something. I must end this post with a request: please, if you are reading this, please reach out to someone today, tomorrow, this week, whenever. A loved one or a stranger, intimate or estranged. A hand on a forearm, an uncalled-for hug, a text, a phone call, an email, a quarter for a stranger. Buy a coffee for the person behind you in line. Look up and smile. Wave the pedestrian to walk when you could keep driving. Today, at the library – which I’d forgotten was closed – a woman offered to hold our big bag of books while I hoisted Pearl up on my knee so that she, Pearl that is, could place each one in the slot. It was a team effort.

“It takes a village,” the woman said, the woman whose name we’ll never know. It could be Jvillage, A, B, or Cvillage. No matter, whatever your letter: Be kind. It matters. It’s all that matters.

And please, leave a comment sharing just such a moment with the rest of us. Remember? THIS IS NOT SOMETHING YOU DO ALONE. I need to hear from you – and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.

16 thoughts on “It Takes a Village

  1. Jolie says:

    A moment of kindness from this week. Leaving for the airport, I was waiting for the bus, but got stuck at the crosswalk and realized I was going to miss it. Frustrated, I gave up in despair, but a young guy waiting at the light bolted across the street and ran two blocks to hold the bus at the next stop for me. I caught up with him, he helped me with my luggage and then he didn’t even get on the bus. He went to all of that effort just for me. I was so grateful and didn’t even get a chance to properly thank him. Such kindness.


  2. Sandy says:

    Today, in my biology class where I am more than twice the age of the next oldest student, I couldn’t get the red blood cells to appear in my microscope’s view. An almost-scary-looking young woman offered to make me a new slide and get it into focus for me. Even more than the offer itself, it was the look on her face that almost brought tears to my eyes — she actually saw me. In a room full of community college students to whom I am nearly invisible because I’m middle-aged, this felt like a gift.

    Or did you mean for us to share kindnesses here that *we* performed? Feels funny sharing one’s own, but some days it does seem all one way and all you’ve got is your own!

    Your writing is a blessing and your new workplace is lucky to have you!


  3. janice says:

    Sunday night I had a dream about two people with whom I have had a very, very difficult time over the past 12 months. In real life (i.e. not the dream), I’d inadvertantly hurt them through mistakes that I made. I’ve since acknowledged my mistakes, apologized (several times) and done all I could to make things right, but still feel like not only were my apologies not accepted but outright rejected with bitterness. In my dream, they came to my house unannounced and brought two beautiful lamps, very ornate like Tiffany lamps. I don’t think it was ever spoken in my dream but I knew the lamps were gifts which the two people were happy to give. I guess I’m taking this as a sign that I’ve finally been forgiven. Dream kindness.


  4. The Other Laura says:

    I spent my early morning at Max’s school and I have to admit this is a place where I often shield myself by being very
    judge-y of other moms.

    So this morning, I stood and held the door for about 10 minutes and smiled a genuine smile and said good morning to every person who walked past me.

    Enjoy your new job, Jena. I know you’re going to shine.


  5. tekeal says:

    I giggled with my visiting mom instead of criticizing her today, I sat with my dying mother-in-law this sunday as she took her last breath, I did a silly fast version of night-time hand massages to my kids even tho I was so tired, I have received the most touching, loving words from my friends these past days. it all goes round and round…


  6. Lisa says:

    I hugged a 3rd grade girl as she cried and cried because she had fallen down in martial arts class and everyone laughed at her. (Who among us hasn’t felt the sting of *those* kind of tears?)

    She then asked if she could share a secret with me….that she is dyslexic. She doesn’t want anyone at her new school to know, for fear they will make fun of her. I was able to extend empathy and offer support and encouragement. (And now to *gently* point out when her letters are reversed while helping her with her homework.)

    This little exchange took perhaps five minutes, yet it was a defining moment for both of us. The power of ‘presence’.

    * * *
    Congrats on your new job! That’s simply wonderful :-)
    * * *


  7. Beth Patterson says:

    What a lovely piece on finding ground…I love the disruptive spiritual site. Wow. You’ve landed on new ground. It might be a bit shaky, but it’s ground.

    I start my new job on Monday, Oct. 18…what a summer it’s been, for just about everyone I know.

    I love you. Thank you for your pilgrimage home…


  8. GailNHB says:

    Soul food indeed.

    I had many such moments this past weekend while away in the Tennessee mountains – fanning a new friend as she wept about not being able to conceive. Carrying bags for another. Unpacking bags from beneath a bus for women who couldn’t reach under and retrieve them for themselves. Every act of kindness and presence felt great. It was fantastic to lend my hands for someone else’s good… and my own good as well.

    PS. You are the feast!



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