Category: Three Rivers

Compassion and joy

Compassion and joy

One of the themes of the past couple of weeks has been WATER. We had about 16” of snow here in Three Rivers, followed by a big melt and lots of rain, leading to record flooding in our community. With downtown built on high ground, our home is safe, but our hearts hurt for our neighbors whose homes and businesses have been damaged.

Though several major roads are still closed, life has gone on mostly as usual in other ways. Rob went to a couple of meet-and-greets yesterday—one to welcome our new public library director, and one to discuss issues with our state representative, who periodically holds “office hours” at the local coffee shop. Issues we’re paying attention to right now are fair elections and safety in public places after the school shooting in Florida—another reason to grieve with our neighbors and reflect on our role in building the kind of world we want our child, and all children, to grow up in.

There’s a line in one of our favorite poems by Wendell Berry that we tend to think of in times like these: “Be joyful, though you’ve considered all the facts.” Rob and I feel that it’s very important to practice compassion—which we think of as suffering with those who suffer—and we hope to raise a compassionate child, one who reaches out to the lonely kid on the playground. And we know that in order to sustain compassion, we all need to play and spend time doing what gives us joy. So here are some of the things that have given us great joy in the past couple of weeks:

  • Seeing the Black Panther movie in the theatre…twice!
  • Tasting and voting at A Chocolate Affair, the annual chocolate bake off at the fair trade store we help run. Our friends Jean and Deborah took the lead on this event this year as I try to cut back my volunteer commitments and they did a great job!
  • Driving up to Grand Rapids for dinner with friends and a concert with Birds of Chicago and Valerie June.
  • A mid-winter warm-up that allowed me to walk the grounds at work and do some more planning for landscaping and trails around the large ponds that we installed last year.
  • A gathering that our friend Becca organized for local farmers to share ideas for the coming growing season.
  • Joining our neighbors at the bookstore across the street from our house to hear a talk about George Washington Carver.

In all of these activities and more, we continue to think about the ways our child will experience and learn from our community. It gives us great joy to think about raising our kiddo in a rich environment with diverse experiences of art and nature, with friends of various ages and colors and backgrounds. While we nurture our hopes for the future, we work to build that world in the present, for our family and for all of our neighbors.

Potlucks, parties, and parenting

Potlucks, parties, and parenting

Photo from the art tent at Huss Future Festival 2017.

Hello there, and welcome to the next installment of “What Goes On in the Everyday Life of the VG-R’s.” (By the way, VG-R is the shortened version of our ridiculously long, hyphenated last name. We’re still trying to figure out what we’ll do when the baby comes along!)

Since last week, things have been pretty standard and low-key, which is good. In 2018, we’re working to cut back on some of our many volunteer commitments so that we have more space in our lives for rest and fun—and, of course, a kiddo!

Last Friday night, we had our weekly potluck dinner at our organization’s community house. We’re going on ten years now with this tradition, and it’s like a weekly family dinner. It’s been a great way to stay connected with people in the midst of our busy lives, and it’s also been a good space to welcome new people. There’s always a variety of delicious foods, often creative dishes made with locally-grown ingredients, and good conversation. We start our time together by introducing ourselves and what we brought, then we read something as a meal blessing (usually a poem), and whoever happens to be standing closest to the plates goes first! Throughout the year, our potluck group ranges from a handful of people to 20+, and from newborn babies to grandparents. I love seeing how the little kids get so much love in this group, and look forward to the day when everyone is angling for a turn holding our child.

Another weekly event in the past few days was our *culture is not optional “staff” meeting. I put “staff” in quotes, because we don’t really get paid, but we’re all committed to work together for the flourishing of our local community. This past Monday, we gathered for the first time since December after a break for the holidays and for the month of January. Julie, Deborah, Rob, and I have been the core group for several years, and this past Monday, we were joined by John Mark and Angela, who are currently living in the community house. Our big topic of discussion was this summer’s Huss Future Festival, which will take place on July 21. It’s a massive, all-day party, with food, games, live music, art, a farmer’s market, and much more. We partner with a local organization that gives out backpacks full of school supplies to local kids, and a bunch of other organizations that provide hands-on activities and games. Last year, we had almost 1,000 people come out! Future Fest is a ton of hard work, but it’s incredibly rewarding and we look forward to coming up with some creative new ideas for this year’s event.

Huss Future Fest takes place at the Huss Project, which is the hub of our *culture is not optional work in Three Rivers. Rob and I spent a chunk of this past Saturday in the neighborhood, going door-to-door to talk with our neighbors about their voting experiences. Since last January, we’ve been meeting weekly with a local group of citizens that’s working on trying to increase voter turnout in our small city. It was great to meet some new neighbors on Saturday and to hear from some passionately committed voters, as well as a couple of people who never registered, but are open to doing so when we visit next time!

It’s fun to imagine what these activities—staff meetings, festival organizing, door-to-door canvassing—will look like with a baby in our lives. We picture ourselves bringing a kid right along with us for these kinds of local adventures, where many “aunts” and “uncles” will share in teaching and caring for them. And yet, we also realize we need to listen to our child and be attentive to what they need at the moment, which may be quiet time at home with a book instead of knocking on another door.

One last thing I’ll share for now: yesterday at work, as an opening reflection, someone shared a video of Maya Angelou talking about her mother. Since we made the decision to become parents, I’ve naturally found myself listening differently to people’s stories, looking for the type of parent I hope to be. I was especially touched by the way Angelou’s mother cooked for her kin as an expression of her love, as well as her unconditional welcome and encouragement for her daughter that made such a profound difference in young Maya’s life. Here it is if you’d like to check it out:

Until next time!