Gaia Strong

I am touched by the images in the news of Dayton and EL Paso as their citizens come together to grieve and uphold each other as a community. I see the signs and hear those interviewed speak about “Dayton Strong” or “El Paso Strong” affirming their resilience to meet and integrate the shock of the recent shootings and heal the rent in the fabric of their lives.

I wonder how to lend my support. Aesop’s fable of the bundle of sticks comes to mind. In his story he told of a father whose sons were often quarreling. The father wanted to show them how their discord would lead them to misfortune. He had one son bring him a bundle of sticks. Then handing the bundle to each of his sons in turn, he told them to try to break it. Although each one tried his best, none of them was able to do so. But, when the father untied the bundle and gave each one a single stick to break, they did it very easily.

Aesop’s moral was, “In unity is strength.”

Through the technology of TV and video I see these people’s tears and grief as well as their affirmations of connection, shared commitment and compassion. Technology brings the images into my room, but I live miles distant. Is there an honest way for me to experience solidarity with their pain and loss of trust and contribute to their energy of resilience? Is there a real way for me to know unity with the loss of these unknown family, friends, and neighbors?

I find thinking isn’t enough. After these days of focused attention, I must go out and move and let the land touch me. I need to walk and smell and hear, letting imagination move into felt experience so I can touch and bring back connection to my immediate world. Walking out the door and down the street, my head begins to clear and thoughts flow. I am conscious of how all the images I have seen, the commentary I have listened to, has overwhelmed and numbed my heart. In an odd way, with all the best intention to be present, attending and listening, I have fallen out of the bundle and broken. The unity that brings strength requires hand and body as well as head and heart.

So I walk and put attention to connections I can make along the way. I am building my local bundle of unity as an offering. I stop to smell a beautiful white rose and admire its fragrance. The homeowner walks up just then and we share in a friendly conversation about roses. I walk on feeling each of us, rose, gardener and myself are touched and a little happier for the exchange. Further along, I notice a woman with a cane tending her plants and offer to help bring in her garbage cans. The woman was very appreciative and I noticed how simple it was to offer that moment of connecting, of “bundling” the sticks. And then, just before I got to the park, there is the woman picking up her mail who was still new to the neighborhood. Though tired, she is delighted and seems refreshed by taking an extra moment of time to share some of her story with a friendly listener.

These were little acts of connection, but each one helped me to strengthen and stay present to myself and the large scope of what I am feeling. For me bundling with the land and trees and what is growing enhances my own reserves of faith, trust and well-being. Kind exchanges with neighbors lift my spirits. I can stand present to a bit bigger piece of El Paso’s pain and Dayton’s loss in myself.

The citizens in Dayton and El Paso are on the frontlines of this tragedy. Unfortunately, there have been and will be other such events around the world in these times of challenge and change. Along with contributing to open conversations and laws that support the structures and services that would best serve, I want to continue to strengthen my ability to stand present as a partner, one stick in a bundle bringing all the strength of my life’s bundles into larger and larger fields of connection.