I am looking at a photograph of a Siberian family. Everyone is wearing the equivalent of big, puffy parkas with hoods. The mother has a colorful floral printed scarf over her head. She is pouring steaming hot tea for the children, who appear to be between the ages of 2 and 7 or 8. I am struck by how in their circumstance, a cup of tea is more than just a hot beverage. It may very well be a meal – butter tea, where the main ingredient is butter, meant to supply the calories needed to survive in the cold that surrounds them.
What a cup of tea, indeed!
I sit in the early dawn in my hotel room, bundled up in nightgown and outside jacket, trying to stay warm. Maybe I should crawl back into bed for another hour, before I have to get up and go to my last day of meetings. Afterwards, when we adjourn around lunchtime, I will make my way to the airport and fly home. I’ve been on the road for 21 days, which is unusual for me. The conflation of meetings just worked out that way.
Believe me, I don’t mean to imply I’m any kind of important or anything like that. I’m not important. I’m tired. And I miss my family and my cat.
One of the ways in which my church, the Episcopal Church, does its business and its ministry is that we gather together in groups for meetings, trainings, and workshops to discuss, debate, imagine, plan, agree, disagree, and decide. In the final analysis, it’s the relationship building and nurturing that makes the gathering in person so vital and generative.
When we see each other and hear the stories of what has happened in our lives in the intervening months when we have been apart, we feel connected again. It’s as if no time has passed.
When we hear of the passages that some of our friends and family have made, we are struck by the commonality of those experiences and we are saddened by our friends’ losses. There really aren’t any adequate words to say what we feel about another’s loss. Saying I’m sorry for your loss doesn’t take away its sting or the hole inside you that won’t be filled again.
In the midst of the disagreements and judgments that we make about each other’s motivation, intelligence, and integrity, we also reveal our own motives, wits, and sincerity. I am reminded of the wisdom of the thought that we each do the best we can with what gifts we have. And sometimes, we are lucky enough to have things turn out well in spite of our mucking things up.
You can accuse me of walking in a dream or being a Pollyanna, but I assert that I will always choose to believe the best of you and hope that you will believe the best of me. The burden of believing the worst of you is just too great to carry in my heart. My hope is that my belief in your good intentions will lift you up and cause you to lift yourself up to do more and to do better. That’s the version of parenting and that’s the version of relationship that I aspire to.