Tuesday, December 23, 2014

“I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort, where we overlap.” -- Ani DiFranco

I’ve spent the past two nights filling out holiday cards while Sam and I had a Hobbit marathon, watching the first two movies in anticipation of seeing the final installment today.

It’s been years since I’ve sent Christmas/Holiday cards– and these will clearly have to be considered New Year’s cards, late as it is– so why the sudden change this year?

Several of the members of the Siblings Survivors of Suicide group on Facebook suggested sending cards to one another, a list was created and here I am filling out 61 cards to send to people I’ve never met but for whom I feel a deep affinity. We call each other sibs or siblings in our comments and it truly does feel as if we are family, born not from the same DNA but from the same searing experience of losing a sibling to suicide.

I actually belong to two specialized communities on Facebook: the sibling group and CJ’s Holiday Challenge group— a group I happened to read about on an online store where I buy running clothes.

In some ways the two groups are very different. For me, one lessens the darkness and the other increases the light. In the siblings group, the posts, this time of year, are about missing our siblings during the holidays; for many it’s the first holiday without their brother or sister. In the other group, it’s mainly for runners and it’s about staying active during the holiday season and our posts are about fitness goals we set for ourselves each week and races we do and tips on which kinds of shoes are better in winter.

But there is one way in which the two groups are very similar: we support one another. In the Siblings group, when someone posts about their sadness, or their anger at their sibling, or their disappointment and anger in friends who think they should just "move on" others post "I know exactly how you feel!" "Hang in there" "I understand" "You’re not alone."

Cards from my "siblings"
In the Challenge group, when someone posts about meeting their weekly goals, or missing them, or being sidelined by an injury, others post "Great job!" "Keep it up!" "Shake it off!" "You’ve got this!"

In neither group is there any judgment of what a person is feeling or what they have accomplished. We just genuinely and compassionately let one another know, we really aren’t alone, there are people out there cheering us on, believing in us, and being there for us.

So, when a sibling suggested sending cards, I added my name to the list. And, as many other siblings have said on that page, it has made a difference this year, to receive cards from a dozen states and as far away as Australia, cards that say Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays and that are signed by someone who is in community with me, who understands that any time we say these words of cheer, there is a sadness embedded in them that not all will see.

I know that even though my cards won’t reach folks (particularly the four people in Australia!!) before Christmas Day, that they will just be appreciative of them when they do arrive. Just as we all were for the woman who gave up trying to get the cards out and posted a holiday meme on our page instead.

Some of the people on both pages have also become friends on my regular Facebook page and it’s been interesting to see where we are alike and where we are different in our beliefs, outside that small box of commonality. And it’s been fun and refreshing to see a side that is different than the one we all focus on in those two special groups. There really is strength in our differences and definitely comfort in the places where we overlap.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, "The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers and cities; but to know someone who thinks and feels with us, and who, though distant, is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden."

These groups make an inhabited garden of this earth for me, as does the community at All Souls, my Junior High Alum gang and others.

Truthfully, community is what strengthens us and binds us heart to heart, life to life, in an inextricable network of mutuality, to paraphrase Dr. King.

Where do you find community? Where do you share your life in support of another and let your guard down enough to receive that support as well?

There will be two opportunities to gather as a community at All Souls this week. One is our annual Christmas Eve service at 7 PM and the other is this Sunday, Dec. 28 at 1030 AM when high school senior, Kendra Burdick will be sharing her stories of community as we celebrate Stone Soup Sunday. I hope you can attend either or both. The truth is, we need each other, and that’s a very good thing.

Happy Holidays!

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