I like small traditions and predictable behaviors. Like, well a million things... I love the confidence I have that my favorite coffee cup is tucked safely away on the top shelf, just out of sight somewhere, when I come home to Michigan. I love that the sun greets me when I step out the door to start a new day. I especially treasure that night comes daily and quiets the rush of each day. I love that there are a few people in my life that are fiercely loyal and reliable - and a conversation (sometimes even just a voicemail) with them can center me entirely and feel like a safe, warm embrace - regardless of the distance or time passed.
I especially love uniting traditions. The kind that bring together a community over a collective experience. Little traditions like inside jokes amongst families (buttle up!, P.U., bmud/bweed), teams, classmates... And I treasure large, time spanning traditions like church liturgies that profess shared beliefs across centuries. I love having a weekly expectation of an opportunity to pray together with a group of friends. I like that holidays lend pause to our normal rush and bring families, friends, and friends turned family together for a meal, coffee on the porch, cards at the kitchen table. I like anthems, pledges, favorite hymns that make us all speak, hum, sing, sway in unison. I like team chants and colors. And on and on... (am I rambling? Good. I like it!)
In simple, repeatable actions (light a candle, hum a tune, salute, touch a doorframe, slap out a silly handshake, repeat a shared joke), we can say to each other: we are the same in this - an intrinsic mutual understanding of belonging. I need, often, to be reminded I belong and I don't think I'm alone in this.
I think most of my love for tradition comes from a childhood which included some startlingly unpredictable moments balanced beautifully by a church and school community that warmly embraced me with more tradition, predictability, and safety than I even knew to take note of at the time. This amazing place - community - wrapped me in encouraging consistency daily and I knew I belonged there. There were moments where people took dramatic actions at crucial moments and I'm fiercely grateful for those moments. More and more though, I remember the daily consistency of it all and I know it was just as crucial.
- I remember a principal at the front door greeting us warmly by name every morning.
- I remember daily devotions and music that brought truth and encouragement and a way to express our joy in it.
- I remember a staff of reliable role models - human, but seeking to model Christ to me constantly.
- I remember weekly chapel. Young voices uniting in liturgy, hymns, and the Lord's Prayer as Christians had for generations. And I remember the careful effort made to ensure that we had a clear understanding of what it all meant. I recall regular opportunities to not just to attend, but participate in, even help lead, worship. I recall early exposure to hymns rich with meaning that continues to unfold now.
- I recall being encouraged that success was unquestionably within our reach. Messages declaring unique potential in each of us. Sound theology that we were fearfully and wonderfully made and God had good plans for us. This was all backed with excellence in academics, exposure to music, art, sports all teaching lessons that would inform whatever that purpose turned out to be.
- I remember coaches that encouraged and included all. I recall parents that cheered the team, encouraged good sportsmanship regardless of outcomes, and left coaches in charge.
- I remember a community of parents that believed kids were raised by a community and provided gentle correction and spoke truth and life to whichever kids were nearest.
- I recall many parents and church members who bought meals, gave rides, bought groceries, paid school fees, and more in order to keep me safe and well and to keep me in the place where I felt safe.
- I remember especially the parents who eventually weren't just parents in the community, but my parents - welcoming my dangerous mess into the midst of their family.
It has since crossed my mind often and it is still one of the places I feel I most belong in the world. It is far away now, but even if I'm in town for only a few hours I make it a point to drive past and I treasure the Sundays I am in town and can go home to St. John's for a service full of friends and familiar liturgy and hymns. I remain a work in progress, but when there is a glimmer of good in me it was likely encouraged, at least in part, there. I treasure that it is a place with staying power, still trying to give this amazing gift to kids today.
Take a moment. Take a breath. Who is fiercely reliable to you? What can you depend on? What helped form you? Where do you belong? What is so intrinsic to your existence that you don't even notice it?
I'm going to try to make an effort not just to notice it, but recognize it, and try to reflect at least some small piece of it to those in my world. Join me. It's all easier when we're united in it - when we make a tradition of it. Come on, try. I'll let you make up our handshake....