Rev. Neal Jones, PsyD

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Circles for our Souls (August 2, 2009)

posted Sep 3, 2009, 12:42 PM by Neal Jones   [ updated Sep 3, 2009, 12:44 PM ]

            One of you told me recently of a tragic scene at your daughter’s soccer game.  The father of one of her teammates was obviously overinvested in the game’s outcome.  When the father’s daughter made a mistake (imagine that), he loudly berated her in front of her teammates, the people in the stands, the coach, and anyone else within earshot.  Humiliated, his daughter broke into tears, which elicited further scorn from her father.  Talk about making a bad situation worse. 

            I have to believe that that father thought he was being a good father to his daughter.  He probably thought that by focusing on her mistakes, she would strive to make fewer.  He probably thought his over-the-top criticism would improve her skills, make her more competitive, make her a “winner,” the most important thing a person can strive for in our society.  After all, it was Vince Lombardi who stated most succinctly what could be our American credo:  “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”  It’s a credo most of us live by.  We climb the ladder of success so furiously and unconsciously that many of us don’t even know what wall our ladder is leaning against, but that doesn’t matter.  The important thing is to keep climbing.

            But I wonder about the unspoken message that father was giving his daughter and that our highly competitive culture gives each of us.  Aren’t we being taught that it’s perfectly acceptable to step on others on our way up the ladder?  Aren’t we learning that unless we climb to a higher rung on the ladder, we are nobodies?  Aren’t we learning that no matter how high we climb, it’s never good enough because we can always climb higher?  When is enough, enough?  When are we good enough? 

            Wouldn’t it be wonderful to step off our ladders into a circle?  You can’t climb a circle.  You don’t step on or over others in a circle.  In a circle, everyone is on the same level, and you can look each person in the eyes, the windows to their souls.  You can hold hands and even dance in a circle.  Maybe that’s why I prefer singing “We Are Dancing Sarah’s Circle” to “We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder.” 

            This past year, 45 members of our congregation participated in eight Circle Suppers, small groups that met together each month for a potluck dinner.  There were no programs, agendas, or to-do lists.  Just the opportunity to sit down and have a meal with some people that we see on Sunday mornings but may not know.  Circle Suppers were such a hit that we are offering them again.  If you would like to be assigned to a Circle Supper, you may sign up in the Social Hall during the month of August or contact Pay Davy.  Each group will be composed of newcomers and old faithfuls.  If you have children, be sure to indicate their ages so that families with similarly aged children can be assigned to your group.  You will be notified in September, and your Circle Supper group can decide when and where to meet each month.  Most groups take turns meeting at each member’s home, but you can meet wherever you’d like, even at the Fellowship.

            A newcomer asked me just this week, “How do I get to know other people at our Fellowship?”  Circle Suppers are one of the best ways.  It’s a chance to get to know others and to be known.  It’s a chance to step off your ladder and be in a circle.  It’s a chance to feed your body and your soul. 

                                                                                                                                                            Neal

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