This morning, my family swirled and sidestepped through our little house in a highly choreographed but always improvisational get-ready-for-the-day routine.
There were dogs to greet, beds to make, clothes to iron, dishes to wash, breakfasts to eat, lunches to make, hugs to give, shoes to find, coffee to percolate, tables to clear, chickens to let out for the day, after-school plans to confirm, cars to warm up, backpacks to stuff and zip, jokes to make and appreciate, teeth to brush and so much more.
Somewhere in the midst of it, our daughter found a few moments to spare. She sat down at the piano and suddenly our house was full of an ancient dance song known as the “Shaker Hymn.”
’Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
’Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be...
“I like this one,” my wife, Sarah, murmured.
Several of us sang along to this 160-year-old tune as we prepared for the day.
A few minutes later, Sarah called us together for a morning family tradition — a quick prayer together. It’s a hug-huddle as she asks God to take us into his care and to help us be lights, doing His will in the world.
And soon that was it.
We headed out to our cars for school, for work, for all the adventures and obligations that make each day beautifully sweet like honeysuckle and impossibly hard like a tall cedar tree.
We haven’t fully emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, but we’re beginning to see a return to something that hints at the life before. For us, that means a return to sports for the kids and the zany schedules that often require us to be many places at once (and none of them is around the dinner table together at the normal time.)
A thoughtful friend of mine calls it the B.C. (before COVID) schedule meeting the A.D. (after downtime) schedule.
It’s a ballet with steps that once were all-too familiar. We’re relearning the movements. It’s exhilarating but already exhausting to be back on the dance floor.
I wonder, though, if we can retain some of the simplicities that we have come to know during our enforced lockdown. For our family, that means continuing to prioritize meals together, even if the timing changes. It means trying to eke out a half hour together in the evening, screens off, reading on the couch with one another.
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
’Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
This morning before our family went our separate ways, my daughter said something memorable.
“We’ve had our morning hymn and morning prayer,” our daughter said. “We’re ready for the day.”
I had no idea that my wife’s morning prayer huddle and my penchant for sitting down at the piano during all hours of the waking day had made such an impact. Our kids are watching us, folks, and they’re creating something unexpected from the moments we give them.
I know that our family might be a bit of an outlier when it comes to singing and praying together, but I’d invite you to consider doing something so old-fashioned and traditional that it’s become radical in today’s world. Would you dare to be a little hokey for the sake of giving your family a solid touchstone in a swirling world? We just survived a global pandemic. If there's ever a time to change course a little, it's now.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
This pandemic still isn’t over. We still need to wear masks and avoid big gatherings. But we can see brighter days coming. I’m looking forward to getting my vaccine when it’s available to me. Reopened life is exciting and tantalizing.
But as we look ahead, I urge us to also look backward and to thoughtfully, intentionally and jealously retain those parts of the last year that were sweet, simple and solid.
Do not be ashamed to make this new dance one that is right for you and your family in this new post-pandemic era. Choose your steps deliberately as you emerge to the music and sunshine.
May you be a light in this world, and may you dance.
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.
Westside Park Renovation Gathers Steam
About fifty people came to little Westside Park last week to join forces and plan out renovations for this simple, beloved corner of Chehalis.
“The weather cooperated and more people than I expected showed up,” said Norma Szabo, who organized the outdoor meeting. “Many of the neighbors walked to the park so we didn’t have parking issues I had worried about. I expected a few people to come, but the response from my post has been a pleasant surprise. It gives me hope that the park I played in over sixty years ago will be enjoyed for many more years by all the neighborhood children.”
This Thursday morning at 10 a.m., the Chehalis Parks and Recreation Department will show up with a tanker truck full of water and a couple of Rotarians will show up with their pressure washers to clean the cement surfaces and the wood of the picnic pavillion to prep it for paint project to follow, according to Chehalis Rotary President David Eatwell.
There are further projects ahead with plenty of opportunities to serve. Learn more and get involved at www.facebook.com/groups/FriendsOfWestsidePark/
One by one, we get things done. When we work together, our community is so much better.
Brian Mittge is singing along to the good life in rural Chehalis. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.