“We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate, and lack. We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.” - Sonya Reece Taylor
It was 2 years ago that our nation and world was in shut-down mode. As those months wore on in 2020, we faced not just a deadly respiratory virus, but also social unrest with the death of George Floyd. In many ways, it seems like a lifetime ago as our world has opened back up and life has returned to “normal.” Or has it? I remember reading this quote by Ms. Taylor back in the summer of 2020 and it impacted me so much that I wrote it in my journal. While there are aspects of normal that I need in my life - socializing and being together and not distancing and seeing people’s entire face, rather than just their eyes - the greater lesson that 2020 taught me is that there are many things that I had taken for granted or worse, things that seemed normal, but as 2020 proved, really exposed the ugliness of things that we have normalized.
Connected relationships are important to us at Lower Lights Ministries. In fact, it is the secret sauce in all of our programs.
Tutoring and mentoring kids in our Bright Lights Kids program, daily groups with our Recovery program women, volunteers who serve as mentors to the Rachel’s House women, and the energizing community that buzzes at the Salon, it is these connected relationships in the many little communities that form Lower Lights Ministries into who we are. When it all came to a screeching halt, the silence was deafening. As the whole world struggled through the silence and then the restlessness which turned to anger, we all realized just how much we really do need each other. The positive part of the “Great Pause” was that it allowed time for reflection and introspection; what’s working, what’s not working. When the world finally re-opened, after a series of fits and starts - we saw each other differently than before. We realized how much we value connection and community.
A tangible difference that has become apparent to me is the sound volume! I recall those days in 2020, where our offices and group spaces were so empty and quiet. Two weeks ago, I was sitting in my office and the sound level outside my door was on max! As I stood in my office doorway, my heart filled with joy as I watched a rowdy Old Maid card tournament with the Bright Lights kids and mentors, I overheard a group of fathers from our Family Housing program laughing in the office next to mine as they were having their weekly community group with the pastor, I saw a Rachel’s House woman and the program director engaging in conversation about her job. For a stranger walking into this space, it might have been overwhelming because of the sound and the people. For me, standing there in the doorway of my office, it was heaven.
It was the beautiful sound of little communities of individuals from so many walks of life coming together and experiencing the joy of connection through sharing life together.
Like most of the world, I say, “good riddance” to 2020. But, I am challenged by the things that were exposed from the aftershocks of it. There are great inequities that still exist and in many ways, the pandemic has just made things more apparent. Affordable and accessible childcare where you would want to leave your 18 month old, third graders who still cannot read, women who apply for a stocker job at a grocery store turned down because of a non-violent felony, 60 year old women who can’t find safe and affordable housing because rent has nearly doubled in our neighborhood, the overdose death rate reaching the record numbers. In many ways, things have not changed. Some things have gotten worse because of the pandemic.
We have our work cut out for us. I say work and not job. For our staff at Lower Lights, our work is a calling; a vocation. A theme for our summer staff meetings is to have some of our senior leadership staff share their calling of how they came to Lower Lights. It is good to be reminded of our calling. And it is good to encourage our newer team members by sharing what faithfulness looks like. Above all, our calling is not to serve the needs of people. Our calling is to Jesus; to join Him in the ministry that He has been doing long before we even arrived on the scene. As we are faithful to Him, we are learning that He is the one who provides and sustains us.
Most of all, His presence is what draws us together into the connected relationships that we simply call “community.” And yes, sometimes it is a loud, chaotic mess. But honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.