I spent the last two days in a workshop about “faith formation.” There were a few UU colleagues present as well but most of the folks attending were Christian ministers or educators or lay leaders. So my colleagues and I spent a lot of time “translating” the language into Unitarian Universalism. My definition was “whatever wakes you up and kicks your butt.” (More on that in a sermon later.) But the definition that was shared that I found really useable for UU’s is, “ Finding one’s story. The story that sustains you and helps sustain the universe- a road map for living a good life.”
For us to find our stories, our lives need to be “anchored in a seedbed of relationships.” At all ages and stages of our lives, we need a network of relationships that go with us and accompany us on our journeys. The workshop facilitator called that network of relationships “familying.” The relationships that have the perhaps the most influence on our development as human beings are the blood ties: our biological families or the family structure that we are raised in, blood or adoptive or chosen. Then there are the household relationships that affect our development: the relationships we have with those whom we live with. And finally there are the essential relationships of our “chosen family:” those who we have gathered into our hearts. This is the pool of relationships upon which we can draw to build foundational, sustaining, nurturing relationships.
I also learned that research shows that there are 5 moments in daily life that contribute to households and families functioning and liking one another. Moments that lay the groundwork for deeper, more connective relationships:
Moment 1: Exits and Entries: how do you and those you share a household or life with take leave of one another and enter common space together after absence? Are there words exchanged? Physical contact made like a hug? Eye contact? A text or Facebook message? Pay attention to these as a moment of connection.
Moment 2: Bedtime: how does your household wind down the day? Are folks in bed glued to screens? Is there any snuggling or reading out loud to one another or talking to one another? A Walton’s moment goodnight exchange? Or do folks retire separately without any words or connection?
Moment 3: Mealtime: yes I know that is become somewhat of an endangered phenomenon. Could it be reclaimed in some way? Could all media devices be turned off and actual conversation be had. Not as in, “How was school today, “ or “How was your day,” but perhaps, “what are you grateful for today?” Or, “what went right for you today?” Connection with real live voices.
Moment 4: Car time: Most of us in this area spend an inordinate amount of time in our cars going hither and yon, often with kids in our cars. What if we didn’t put in the DVD or didn’t all slap in ear buds or have our faces buried in our phones? What if we talked? I used to travel with youth and always banned the radio or walk persons. I made them tell me stories. Sometimes we picked a theme as in tell me a story from your life involving water. Or tell me something from when you were 6. Stories are connection.
Moment 5: Memory Making Moments: moments in household life that cry out to be remembered -the moments that just happen. We create a shared history and ties by retelling stories of events that involved folks. This happens for friends and family and even co-workers. They build upon each other, deepening ties and connections.
We are a relational species. We have need of one another. We find our own stories and develop our own road map by the journeys we travel in the company of relationships. So seize the 5 moments of potential connection in each day. Find your peeps and carry on…
Peace, Shalom, Salaam,