Relationships. Hmmmmm...Lately, there seems to be a lot in the news media about relationships. An opinion piece recently focused on a new school in New York City where relationships between teachers and students, teachers and teachers, and students and students are as important as curriculum! Not really a "wow" piece of data - as most of us fully realize the importance of team teaching, student teamwork, and schools that have teachers "travel" with their students through all the grade levels. However, this new school has not only incorporated teaming ideas that have worked in the past, but also has made the development and nurturing of relationships a number one priority.
Last year I read Transforming Relations - a collection of essays on Jewish-Christian relationships over the centuries. It begins by in-depth research dispelling the stereotype that the only type of interaction in Medieval Europe between Jews and Christians was adversarial. Purposeful actions led by leaders of both faiths DID lead - and has led - to healthy relationships. The book goes on to say that people of both faiths must continue to also see these steps toward understanding as healing relationships. Not long after that book was published, there was a NY Times article entitled "The Brain on Love!" More about how the delicate circuits of our brains shape our emotions and abilities to forge relationships - a new field called interpersonal neurobiology!
Relationships. Nothing new, right? We know all about how healthy relationships nourish and heal - whether in the context of a school, the context of different religions, or right here in our own backyard. I think of the varied and numerous relationships that continue to be forged on our islands and over the causeway - not only the ones formed in groups or clubs or committees, but as importantly, the one-on-one interactions and small group gatherings - relationships that build trust and care and emotional and spiritual health. We know they happen all the time but we sometimes don't fully comprehend the power and potential of these interactions - whether the interaction is between friends, or between a friend and a stranger. Bodies and souls are strengthened when someone from F.I.S.H. brings a meal to a shut-in. Bodies and souls are nourished when someone takes the time to stop and listen. Bodies and souls are healed when a group gathers for coffee and support. Relationships are forged when a lonely person wanders into Noah's Ark and is taken under the wing of a tender smile. Whatever the type of caring interaction, relationships restore those bits of humanity that seem to get lost or hurt in our hectic lives. Even the proliferation of social networking - Facebook, tweeting, and e-mail - seems to demonstrate our need to have human encounters - albeit not face-to-face.
REV. DR. ELLEN SLOAN. PHOTO PROVIDED.
However we do it, and with whomever we interact, we MUST make relationship building a priority in our lives. Whether we tweet or greet, whether we reach out an actual hand or reach out with our heart in an e-card, healing relationships are more important than ever in this fast-paced world in which we live. In this new year, take a serious look at all your interactions, and try to imagine how each encounter can begin to restore, refresh, and renew one person - one relationship at a time. You'll find that in your efforts, you will be incredibly refreshed, renewed, and restored as well.