🤗Life at the Center: What the World Needs Now! 🤗Vol. 66, January 2019

 “If you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with.” – Stephen Stills

For the first time since our elder son was born in 1984, Cliff and I faced Christmas alone this year. Not one of our three children was with us in Kaneohe, instead scattered from Colorado to California to New Zealand for the holiday. It happens, right? But it had never happened to us.

Fortunately for our very empty nest, a number of other folks – as if guided by some magical force – landed at our home in the middle of the Pacific to cheer in the Christmas week with us. We were quite a hodge-podge of folks, all landing to interconnect like a jigsaw puzzle of pieces from all over the globe, ultimately creating a lovely, if brief, whole.

Our dear family friends the Howards (Veena from India, Don from Kansas) arrived with their two irresistibly dear, whimsical daughters, Mira and Gita. Between their friends and ours, we found ourselves with FIVE vivacious young people going on adventures together and gathering around the dinner table – a very well-filled nest after all, even if not with our own beloved children.

Perhaps you’ll enjoy a ‘fly on the wall’ perspective, listening in our one of our conversations when I asked them all the question: What gives you hope for the future? What inspires you as we move into the new year?

Gita: age 22, half Indian / half American, currently in law school in Miami. A journalist, feminist and natural philosopher who intends to use her law degree for social justice causes.

“What makes me most happy these days is seeing people who have been marginalized, especially native Americans and LGBTQ people, turning things around. They take the very thing they’ve been marginalized for, and hold it up as a positive, a rallying point of pride, and use it for forward momentum.”

Francesco:  age 30, warm, thoroughly charming, and wise beyond his years, far from his family village in Northern Italy, currently on sabbatical from teaching school in Auroville, India where he instructs children in a somatic practice called ATB, or Awareness Through the Body.

“While traveling in different countries recently, I sometimes meet people discouraged about institutions that never seem to change. I see things differently.
I imagine an outdated system as an old, dying tree, and what I see is the many little seedlings, full of life, shooting up around it. Wherever I’ve traveled, I’ve seen such a profusion of small groups doing good things for the world, my heart feels good.”

Mira: Age 26, Gita’s sister. A life-coach and art gallery manager in Venice, California. An avid outdoors woman who loves mountain climbing and swimming with sharks – a great fellow adventurer who enjoyed night hikes and rambunctious canoe paddles with Cliff over the holidays.

“And when the big tree falls, it creates a super rich eco-structure for all the other saplings and life forms growing up around it. It’s that way in all the ecosystems, on the land or in the sea.”

“Our generation gets criticized a lot for being on our phones all the time, but it’s part of our social ecosystem. I see communication as something very important to interconnectedness. Yates and I met each other 8 or 9 years ago and then lived too far apart to spend much time together, and we always stayed in touch through our phones. Getting to see him again and do stuff this Christmas is like we’ve never been separated, we’re still such good friends.”

“I do a lot of my coaching by phone. My clients don’t have to be so worried about what they look like, what impression they are making, when we’re on the phone. Just communicating by voice feels safer for some of them.”

“We can all share a lot of different perspectives and experiences online. I love seeing Eastern ideas and philosophies becoming more widely known and accepted. Even though technology can be a problem when overdone, it can also help us communicate, and relationships are super important for moving into the future.

“The best thing, though, is spending time together in person – like we are doing now with Yates and all of you.”

Katie: Age 17, a wide-eyed high school senior in Albuquerque, New Mexico, preparing for college next year. A Christian who enjoys visiting the nuns at a nearby monastery.

“This is an exciting time for me because it’s the closest I’ve come yet to seeing my dreams come true. My friends and I are all about to go out into the world, and that gives me a feeling of hope and promise.”

Yates: Age 28, a Cambridge/Harvard graduate of Swedish/English descent with a decidedly feminine look and demeanor. Quite amused on the plane to Honolulu by the flight attendants addressing him as “ma’am… I mean sir… or ma’am…”  Currently working in Lithuania curating a museum. With the price of cabbage being about $.25 per kilo and wages being abominably low in Lithuania, he cooks many one-pot cabbage meals in his rice cooker, whom he fondly refers to – with his wry British humor – as ‘Condoleezza’.

“I’m touched by radical hospitality, by openness. I see hope in intergenerational dialogue, not just in our generation interacting with each other. I was feeling pretty hopeless when I landed here in Hawaii – it’s been a rough year – and now I’m inspired by the people around me that I see giving to the world.”

After that go around the table, Cliff and I felt great about the future and not so lonely after all. There are so many marvelous, kind, funny, daring, philosophical, caring people in this world. Our sons and daughter were all fine, experiencing wonderful times and adventures elsewhere with their spouses. And here we were with so many great kids coming through our door this Christmas. Francesco seemed like a long-lost cousin we were just coming back in contact with. Katie and her newly single mom felt grateful to spend the holiday in a happy home filled with laughter. Gita and Mira exclaimed to us, “You’re like the aunt and uncle we always wanted to have around!”  As Yates departed, he performed his Swedish family tradition of literally kissing the walls of our house!

Steven Stills’ rock classic refrain from 1970 no doubt road upon the coattails of the hippies’ free love movement in the 1960’s, yet a Platonic, plural version of his message helped me through the holidays this year. The whole week, a revised mantra kept rising up, telling me that wherever I am and whoever is near me:

“If you can’t be with the ones you love, honey, love the ones you’re with!”

Dancing in Joy and resting in stillness with you,

And you, dear reader?
Just hit Reply – I always love hearing from you.

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