There is something challenging and rewarding when you have the chance to spend time with people who don’t speak your language…and you don’t speak theirs. To be fair, our “new friends” in Vienna spoke more English than we spoke German. Still our day together was filled with patience and pantomime!
When they met us at our hotel, the first place they took us to was a church in the center of Vienna. There seemed to be a sense of urgency in their step. As we approached the church, I was expecting them to fling open the big doors revealing a magnificent cathedral. Instead, they stood very close to the front of the church pointing to a young tree that was growing out of a small crack in the wall of the building. Their delight was unmistakable. They seemed to be saying, “Look! Look here! This tree has decided to set down roots right here in this stone and it’s growing! How amazing is that?” And we agreed and shared their amazement. It’s possible for something to set down roots and grow in some very unlikely, even inhospitable, places. This young tree was a vivid metaphor for resilience, against all odds.
That was in 2004. Yesterday I walked out the front door of our house and saw something similar in 2021. A small wood sorrel plant was emerging, strong and green, from between the bricks of our front flower boxes. I immediately thought of that day in Vienna. But on this day, it spoke to me of something much more personal. Against all odds, this feisty little plant had managed to not just survive in this strange and unexpected place, it was thriving! As the sun warmed it and me on that bright July morning, I saw the same resilience in that little green plant that my family and so many of my friends had cultivated in the unlikely environment of the pandemic. We had been challenged to “take root” in our homes with limited or no human contact for months for fear of contracting a deadly virus. We had been challenged to find new ways to spend our days, fix our meals, care for each other, deal with inconveniences and disappointments, manage our finances, communicate with family and friends. Like the little sorrel plant emerging from the crack in the bricks, I felt as if we were beginning to emerge from the grip of the pandemic. I reflected on the ways life had changed, on the many things I had learned about myself and about life and the many ways my choices had influenced others, in spite of my strong sense of resentment. I suddenly sensed the true meaning of “resilience.”
“Resilience,” wrote Amanda Ripley, “is a precious skill. People who have it have three advantages: a belief they can influence life events, a tendency to find meaning and purpose in life’s turmoil, and a conviction that they can learn from positive and negative experiences.”
As winter 2021 approaches, the story of this pandemic is far from over and opportunities to cultivate resilience are everywhere. I hope you will look for them, seize them and grow from them. You CAN influence life events. You CAN find meaning and purpose in your pandemic experience. You CAN learn from everything you’ve experienced since the pandemic began, both good and bad.
Many of the writers in our book, wrote about resilience, in their own lives or the lives of those around them. In order for our book to live up to its title, to actually cultivate resilience, it needs to be read which is why we are working hard to share it with the world.
And so, first and foremost, I hope that our book finds its way into the hands of those who need it most, that it will be gifted, bought, borrowed, found, downloaded or listened to by anyone who has suffered or felt alone, whose life has been negatively impacted by the pandemic. It is my hope that those who read it will be inspired, healed, comforted, surprised and challenged. It’s my hope that if you read Navigating the Pandemic, when you finish it, you will be prepared to answer these two important questions: how are you going to live your life together with other human beings on this planet and what are the issues on which you are willing to invest your time, energy and resources? Because where we go from here really is up to each of us.
That tiny wood sorrel spoke to me from the crack in the concrete. In the words of Charles Eisenstein, “A million forking paths lie before us… We are beginning to perceive the power of who we might become… No longer the vassals of fear, we can bring order to the kingdom and build an intentional society on the love that is already shining through the cracks of the world of separation.”