The other night I sat on my bed, trying to look like I wasn’t sitting on my bed, and met online with a group of new friends. Almost everyone, as it turned out, was perched on their bed or sitting in their bedrooms. When houses are full, this is where women go to zoom.
Megan, my roommate from university days, organized the gathering.
We spent 90 minutes or so talking about The Minister’s Wife, and some of the topics it covers. I was able to share the story of writing the book, and a couple of passages that I remain fond of, almost a year since the book’s release.
But the tenderness of the evening for me was listening to people who had read the book, share what it meant to them. And that meant a lot to me. Kindly, they didn’t tell me the parts they didn’t enjoy.
It was restorative. And I admit it: My little writer’s soul was a purring kitten from start to finish and for almost the whole day afterward.
Everyone deserves an hour on zoom — or something equivalent in kindness — with people appreciating them and their space and place in the world.
I’ve worked for long chunks of time in an environment where the only feedback was negative, or just as bad, silence. Once, I entered into a pact with a co-worker that we would say nice things about each other’s work, because no one else ever did. This is silly and stupid, to never say positive things to people working all around you. We are all plants in pots, just waiting to be watered every now and then. I no longer think this is needy. I think it is necessary.
I thought of Megan, and how beautifully she teaches yoga. I took a class with her, and she invited us to sit on a chair and wave our arms like seaweed. She made us feel that, even then, we were stunning. She should have a zoom full of her yoga women, all of them sitting on their beds mid-evening, telling her how good she is at her work and what it means to them. I know they would.
Usually, we know full well all the ways we can improve. Don’t we? And of course there is a time for others to weigh in on that too and give us some of their helpful pointers. I am thankful, usually and eventually, for people who care enough to do that for my own good and growth.
But to share with someone where and when they are already doing well, and to thank them for their good work in the world, that is strangely rare.
Let’s do that more.
I’m reading Tish Harrison Warren’s new book Prayer in the Night: For Those who Work or Watch or Weep, and I’m in the “Those who Work” chapter. She writes: “We are made to share a common life of work and creativity….We will never not be needy. We will never not need God and one another. Our telos is community, not self-sufficiency. It’s a feast, a life together.” We need each other, even in our work. Sometimes we need each other to sustain us in our work. Even just with an occasional, “Well done friend.” And a little bit later Tish writes, “Through our vocations, we seek to love others in embodied and practical ways.” I think that is all true. And when someone is doing good work well, we should love them back a little bit by telling them.