We regularly welcome guest writers to ReadTheSpirit. You’ve told us that some of your favorite stories are from writers you’ve discovered right here. Well, today, listen to this New Voice:
Christine Gloss runs a consulting company “On Beyond Zebra!” that works with businesses, schools, nonprofits and community groups. Over the years, though, Christine has developed a larger vocation: connecting people and being “generative,” a powerful word that Christine likes to describe as “giving birth to something good.”
Because ReadTheSpirit is all about “spiritual connection,” we’ve invited Christine to visit with us for several days this week. I think you’re really going to enjoy the experience. That’s Christine, many years ago, in the cowboy hat — with her good friend Linda and her little brother Jim.
At the end of Christine’s story today, please, tell us what you think! Christine is developing this larger vocation and hopes to bring people a whole array of ideas about learning to connect with others — and learning to give birth to helpful things in our community.
So, with that introduction, here is:
In a World of Disconnected Lives,
Our Challenge is Connecting Everyday
By CHRISTINE GLOSS
Several years ago, about the time of what I considered a “milestone” birthday, I reconnected with a favorite high school teacher. A woman of great intellect and humor, she had been a positive force in my life in my junior and senior years at an all-girls Catholic high school.
We were catching up on the phone, filling each other in on some of the details of our lives, when she asked me, “Do you have children?”
“No,” I replied, and she could hear the obvious disappointment in my voice.
Now, as the second oldest of five kids, I had done a lot of care-taking of my younger siblings. My older sister and I were the designated babysitters when my Mom ran errands or when she treated herself to a well-deserved Friday night excursion to the local mall.
I liked being the big sister, helping my Mom with the tasks of feeding, dressing, and amusing the kids.
Often, I’d take them to my friends’ houses where they would be the center of attention. It was fun. And as they got older I enjoyed taking them other places –- to the library, to an amusement park, to some of my high school basketball games. I enjoyed introducing them to new things. Since my siblings were five, nine, and eleven years younger than I, I had a lot of opportunities to be “big sister” in the years I was living at home.
Caring for children seemed a natural part of my life, and I never envisioned not having children of my own. It just worked out that way.
I was struggling to come to terms with that fact around the time of that milestone birthday, when I reconnected with my high school teacher. When she asked me if I had children. When she heard the disappointment in my reply.
And then my former teacher gave me an incredible gift.
“Well, Chris,” she said, “there are many ways to be generative.”
That statement hit me between the eyes and illuminated my life. In it, I heard not missed opportunities, but possibilities. It validated things I was already doing. And it gave me the sense that I already had everything inside me needed to spark good things in other people. All I had to do was look for the opportunities.
So what does it mean to be generative? The dictionary tells us it means “producing new life or offspring.” I like to look at it in a broader sense: giving birth to “new life” in someone who’s already walking around this planet; giving birth to something good in someone, even if it’s only in passing.
It might mean acknowledging someone’s talent or accomplishment. It might mean the simple act of acknowledging someone’s presence when you walk down the street.
It might be a pleasant word to the person who gets on your elevator with the weight of the world on her shoulders. It’s about counteracting the negatives that swirl around us. It’s about seizing the opportunity to pass some positive energy to a stranger, an acquaintance, a friend.
It’s also about connecting.
I live in what the demographers call a single-person household. According to the US Census Bureau, households like mine now outnumber those of the traditional nuclear family. They are populated by young adults, the middle aged, and seniors. In the year 2000, there were 27 million of us. By 2010 there will be more than 34 million. This trend to single-person households is upward, not just in the US, but also in Canada and in Europe. In 2002, one third of all Europeans lived alone. By 2007, the number reached just under 40%.
So there are a lot of us out there looking to connect with others in a meaningful way in the course of our day. Add to this a growing number of people who are self employed and who work alone, and there is a strong drive to connect. And of course, you don’t have to fit into any of those categories to want to do that.
My goal here, this week, is to share some stories of people I connected with and of people who reached out to me. I’ll share some ideas on how we can turn everyday activities into generative moments. I’m also interested in hearing how you are doing the same. So, as you read this and my next two stories, send me your comments and ideas. Let me know what you are thinking.
At this point I should tell you the “rest of the story” of my phone call. Did I mention that my former teacher was a Dominican nun? In her “many ways to be generative” statement I also heard the wisdom and focused power of her own life. As a nun she had chosen a life without children, yet she had long been bringing about the birth of good things in others: in the members of her religious community, in the teens to whom she taught Religion and French, and later, in the adults in seminary to whom she taught theology.
Her “many ways to be generative” comment was in fact, a generative moment.
I received. And a new optimism about my particular contribution to the lives of others was born in me. The power of her statement has been a force in my life for many years now. The significance of this conversation occurring around the time of my birthday has not been lost on me.
So thank you, Sr. Simeon, for your gift. I dedicate these pages to you.
COME BACK TOMORROW for a second story by Christine.
We are eager to hear from you. Please, tell us what you think.
This week, we’re asking that either click on the “Comment” link at the end of Christine’s stories. Or, send an Email to our Home Office and we’ll forward your thoughts directly to Christine.