I was always a sensitive person. When I was little, I could feel the emotional states of people around me. I don’t just mean that I could sense them. I mean that I could feel them in my body. Some people said “You are too sensitive.” Many meant to shame me. Others perhaps wanted to protect me. This is not something I can change. It is a gift to be honored and also something to manage so that it doesn’t overwhelm my life. In other times, and other societies, communities find a way to honor the gift of being sensitive.
In the last week I have spoken to six people who are having lots of feelings lately. They shared they were having strong feelings about the topics of our day:
- climate change and our denial, inaction, and insufficient actions on the part of policy makers
- the rise of white populism and it’s many manifestations
- economic inequality
- wars in Ukraine, Yemen, and many other places
- the sense of trust and unity with each other
These leaders and thinkers and sensitive people like me all expressed that sometimes these issues overwhelm them. It is hard to find a foothold on this mountain of despair that at times becomes our whole horizon.
Can you feel it?
I know I do.
I took a few extra days off this last week to rest, reflect, and let things settle a bit. I went camping.
I spoke to a community leader in Concrete, WA. She owns the 5 Bee’s gluten free restaurant there. She gathers a group of women every Friday to share how they are feeling and to find ways to make a difference there. Yes, Concrete, you know that little town on the way up State Highway 20. The only reason you notice it is that you have to slow down on the way to the pass.
As I ended my camping trip I drove down toward home. As I went I thought of the people I knew in each town working to build community and justice. I thought of the people in Sedro-Woolley working on LGBTQIA rights and inclusion. I thought of Community Action in Mount Vernon. I remembered a group working to support unhomed people in Burlington. I recalled the One Congregation One Prisoner program in Burlington and Beyond. I remembered the work to support and encourage migrant workers in the Skagit Valley. As I came toward Anacortes, I remembered the young people building community and working for racial justice in the town, the city, and the schools.
I could go on for a long time. Up and down I-5. Across the state both to the Tri-Cities, Yakima, Wenatchee, Ellensburg, Spokane, Walla Walla, and Pullman. Everywhere you look you can find people working together for a common purpose, and for our common good.
Can you feel this?
In times like these it is easy to feel the weight of all that is wrong, of all that is in danger, of values not honored, of fear run amok.
The next time you look at a map of our State, or the country, or the world, remember that there are many people who are sharing feelings with you. You are not alone. Take comfort in their efforts to build a better world. Take up one thing that you can do to join them.
Despair cannot be answered by anything other than loving, collective action. This action is a leap into trust, to almost quote Kierkegaard, that so many are taking today. Let’s feel our feelings, and then go together into our community. Remember that it is okay to take a break. And then remember that there are times when the real rest we need is to sweat for the common good with all our strong, sensitive siblings.
Photo: Terry Kyllo by the Skagit River