I spent last week visiting my parents in Jasper, a small town in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It was the first time since my 11 year old twins were born that I have been away from them for more than two days consecutively. It was also the first time in over 20 years that I spent time with my parents without other family around. My time with them reminded me of some of life’s simple truths.
I visited them because my dad has been declining for several years, both physically and mentally. I wanted to see how he was doing for myself, and to let the rest of my family know what I saw. The experience was bittersweet, as I got to spend more quality time with my parents than I have in all of the last two decades, while at the same time realizing I will probably never get to have another good in person conversation with my dad. He will simply be too far gone by the time we get together again.
One of the joys of the trip was that we had no plans for what we wanted to do. We were content to sit around together if we wanted, or go for a drive, or watch a television show together, or … whatever. In the midst of a pandemic and facing the coming winter in a job where I watch homeless and marginalized adults try to keep it together in the face of horrible circumstances, my time with my parents helped me refocus.
When we face crisis, we often fall back on the old rallying cry, “Don’t just stand there! Do something!” During the pandemic, almost everyone has had ideas of what we should do. It was a time for action, we thought. But as a wise friend once told me, sometimes it is better to yell, “Don’t just do something! Stand there!” Sometimes it is better to take time to appreciate what is still working, to enjoy the moment with those around us, and to gather ourselves for what lies ahead. The problems will still be there, and sometimes they will have gotten worse while we were resting, but we will be better prepared to meet the challenges. We will have a focus, and an understanding of what resources we have to face the crisis.
This is no great insight. Philosophers and teachers have preached it for centuries. But, for myself at least, I had to experience it rather than hear about it to relearn this truth. I have actually tried to incorporate it into my life for years by practicing a daily quiet time, but so often my mind gets cluttered with everything I have to do, and my quiet time becomes a list of the tasks that I hope I can get through. Truly being quiet, standing still, and appreciating what is can be so difficult.
I know many people have run into the same issue during the pandemic, Loss of income, uncertain health, dire predictions have all taken their toll on us. They clamor for our attention and make us want to fight to control our lives. But even in the midst of the chaos, I hope we can each find at least a little quiet where we can be still.
by Marti Malby, Director Peace House Community – A Place to Belong
This article originally appeared in “The Alley,” the newspaper for the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis.