That old and yucky story drags us down. I can take a quick trip to the land of overwhelming cynicism and retreat to mockery and despair pretty easily. I’ve been well trained to do that and I’ll meet plenty of my friends and neighbors in that space, as we grimly feel the weight of powerlessness and hopelessness grind further on our souls. That’s when I need to stop, breathe, and remember how I’ve known peace, hope, and joy before. Those memories remind me of the story I’d rather live. If I can’t find those memories close by, then I might need to retell a story that will take me to the same place.
Restorying is a way of restoring ourselves, of beginning again and of picking up where we left. When I’m in the cynical place, the primary story seems to be one that cultivates apathy and exhaustion. When I’m living in the story of having moral agency – just because I breath, just because I feel – then that’s what seems to be the primary story. Restorying restores.
In the story we really want to live – the one where we all have gifts and we can make a difference for good – we need to know our gifts, know who might make use of them in our communities, and know our community partners who share a calling to working on particular issues or with particular people in our community.
Name your gifts. Repeatedly in the Jewish and Christian scriptures, people are asked to offer the gifts they have, not someone else’s gifts, not to all be one kind of person in a very narrow way, but to offer the gifts each has. Musicians make music. People who take joy in weaving, weave cloth. Those who love the alchemy of cheese take the milk and the salt and the enzymes and make the cheese. Write down the gifts you have to offer.
Who needs your gifts? Every community has need of every gift. If your gift is encouragement and you’re finding yourself appreciating and cheering people on, who most needs encouragement in your community? Where are the people who’ve lost hope as you travel around where you live? If your gift is teaching people through the martial arts to find their center and to feel more capable and stronger in their lives, who in your community most yearns for that way of being? If your gift is telling stories that call forth stories from others, who most needs the stories you have to tell or yearns to learn how to tell their own? Next to your list of gifts, make note of who in your community can use those gifts. Your gifts shared will open the way for those with whom you’re sharing to do likewise. Circle a couple of the gifts and folks in your community that tug at your heart.
Who are your community partners? We don’t make healthy vibrant community alone, as individuals, although each of us together does make that way of life possible. There are other people who share your heart tug to be with particular people yearning for your gifts so they might share their own. Who can you partner with? An institution like a school, a library, or a shelter? A group, like one for parents or a storytelling troupe or the community gardeners reclaiming abandoned land? Or will you form a group with some others you know who might be interested, and identify together other community partners with whom you can work? Name the community partners for the gifts and folks you’ve circled.
Pick up your gifts and know who needs them. Connect with those community partners. Make and live into the commitment.
You have the ability to be an agent of hope, to live a story that restores. How will you start or enlarge that agency today?