Crossroads or Labyrinth

Regular readers know that, one Thursday evening a month, I take time to walk the Labyrinth at the church I attend.  Normally, those “open walks” are held on the first Thursday of the month, but this month it was the second Thursday.  So, in the midst of the interior and exterior journey I’ve been describing here, I took that physical-but-spiritual journey last night.

The day started out with a meeting I’d agreed to attend several months ago.  This one was much less painful than the Tuesday set.  It was a smaller group, with a focused agenda,  discussing training teachers to use the brand-new student information system.  I’ve worked with the Power in charge for years, and I value her organization, her personal discipline, and her commitment to making sure things run well and smoothly for  teachers, administrators, and other school staff members who depend on trouble-free access to the information they need.  If my path continues in (but not of) the factory-system for a while, I’ll feel better knowing that this one important area is still in good, capable, and caring hands.

The meeting ran long, and I was hungry when it ended.  What to do about lunch?  Realizing I wanted a sit-down meal rather than a sandwich, I headed for a little hibachi restaurant I rarely think of … and there was a friend I’ve known for almost twenty years!  We ate, sat, and talked for almost two hours about everything from my current struggles and her plans for the school year to her first grandchild, who should arrive in late October.  “You know,” she told me, “what you’re really doing is building a village, a real, old village.”  Yes, I said, a 21st-century village!

It takes time and effort to build a village!  You can build a subdivision in days or weeks, but a village has to grow.  I felt better after that.

With just a couple of hours left until my Thursday evening started, I realized it would be silly to go home.  It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day – a perfect day for an afternoon nap from which I would likely not wake up in time.   So I sat at a nearby coffee shop for a while (“Hi Mr. S! Here’s your coffee!” said my former student E, the third of three brothers to work there). I was responding to email, slowly sipping an iced coffee,  talking on the phone with my friend who’s literally on the move.  “My goodness!” she said.  “That Pod is huge!”

When she was concerned about Pod size, I’d asked her to visualize and physically represent the space, but neither of us had thought to calculate the floor area or volume.  It turns out that the their Pod is almost as big as their apartment!.\  Good information became knowledge and wisdom, and that helped to drive out the vague, unfocused worries.  And it was good to remember that different people need different kinds of information – and that for her, as for me, seeing the numbers would be helpful.

I got some good information and good news myself, in the form of an email from a Tres Columnae Project participant.  She’ll be using our “stuff” with all of her Latin classes this coming year, and she had some suggestions and questions I was able to answer.  And just this morning, she sent word of a teacher-friend who might also be interested.  Slowly but surely, the community – the village – is growing, organically and by word of mouth the way that real communities and real villages have to grow.  Yes, marketing and positioning are important, but they’re the foundation, not the roof or walls.  The real building happens when people tell their friends, their colleagues, their neighbors.

A lot of twentieth-century organizations forgot about that.  And we see the sad legacy every day, whenever businesses and organizations forget that they work for the customer rather than vice versa.  Later in the day, after walking the labyrinth, I stopped for a sandwich on the way home … and there, too, the workers recognized me as a somewhat-regular customer, seemed happy to see me, apologized for “the delay” as someone had to go and get more chicken from the refrigerator in back.

And the walk itself?  It was exactly what I needed, of course – and there were so many people there!  If you’ve ever walked a Chartres-style labyrinth, you know that the path takes you almost to the goal at the beginning, and then, in the middle, you get closer and farther.  Just when it seems that you’re as far away as possible, right next to the place where you started, there’s one final turn and – Wow! There you are!  Earlier this week, I had felt as though “I can’t do the thing I have to do.”  In fact, I said it out loud to my friend at lunch, and again to my friends who serve as hosts for the labyrinth walk.  And it’s true … or not untrue: I, by myself, can’t do the thing I have to do.  But the good news is that I don’t have do it by myself.  Team, place, and time – that phrase that’s kept me going these past few months – are slowly but surely coming together.

Oddly, late in the afternoon, I got a call asking if I could “help out” with the Senior Class Car Wash, a fund-raising effort that will take place on Saturday outside a local restaurant.  I’d been thinking of going there anyway, especially after I got the emailed coupon for a free coffee, so I agreed to go, supervise, and (as the Class President promised) get a free meal.  I’m not sure how that connects with these other threads, though it did remind me that, even in the factory-structure, joyful community is still possible … just difficult.  Perhaps a conversation or a “chance” encounter will show me the next steps on the path, just as the ones on Thursday did.

What do you think, fellow builders and sustainers of joyful community?  Is it a crossroads, fraught with peril and significance like Robert Frost’s two roads that diverge?  Is it a maze, where some paths turn out to be dead ends, like the one in Who Moved My Cheese?  Or in the end, when you find the right community, does it turn out to be a labyrinth where one path lay before you all the time, and all you had to do was take it?

Published in: on August 9, 2013 at 1:17 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] was a long, lively Google+ conversation about Friday’s post about labyrinths and mazes.  It seems that they’re a powerful symbol for lots of people!  I forgot to mention how […]

  2. […] your whole self to the work – even the disappointed, nostalgic, sad, angry parts.  Every time I walk the labyrinth at church, I’m sure that this journey, too,  just has a few more twists and turns. But new […]

  3. […] your whole self to the work – even the disappointed, nostalgic, sad, angry parts. Every time I walk the labyrinth at church, I’m sure that this journey, too, just has a few more twists and turns. But new ones […]

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