Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Community - It's Good For You!

“Generally speaking, the most miserable people I know are those who are obsessed with themselves; the happiest people I know are those who lose themselves in the service of others...By and large, I have come to see that if we complain about life, it is because we are thinking only of ourselves.”
Gordon B. Hinckley
“The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer someone else up.”
Mark Twain

“Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste.”
Charlotte Brontë

I am always crazy busy!  It’s entirely possible you’ve been coming to the store for years and we’ve never met.  (Let’s fix that!)  But I have to say that adding these extra elements to the store has created one of the happiest summers of my life – and that’s saying something!  After all, who doesn’t remember, with possibly false nostalgia, happy carefree summers of our youth?  But this summer has provided opportunities for me to really get to know some of you at a new level.  To share your stories and lives, and to be vulnerable with mine.  There truly is no greater gift we can give one another. 
As I’ve continued my research into the devastating effects that the decline of community has had on our lives, I’m absolutely astonished at the amount of research that’s been done on it.  There is a lot of science backing up what I’ve been feeling for years.  Let me share some more of what I’ve learned….

In the book “Bowling Alone” (which I mentioned in a previous post) it states that community “makes us smarter, healthier, safer, richer, and better able to govern a just and stable democracy.”  Wow!  That is absolutely incredible, don’t you think?  Quite a claim!  And yet, there is science to back it up.  Lots of science!

Here are some of the reasons the book lists for why community leads to better health:  1)  community furnishes tangible assistance.  Remember the story I told in an earlier post about how one of my customers became friends with another customer and ended up providing transportation to a dentist appointment?  It’s that kind of assistance that tangibly leads to better health.  But there’s much, much more!  2)  Being a regular member of a community makes it obvious when you are absent.  You can let your imagination run wild with stories you’ve heard about people not getting help they need in an emergency because nobody knew.  3)  Community reinforces healthy norms – people engaged in community activities are much less likely to overeat, drink, smoke and engage in other “socially unacceptable behaviors”.  And the one I’ve alluded to before, 4) being engaged in community actually boosts your immune system!  Perhaps it’s as simple as the notion that you’re better able to fight off germs when you have some exposure to germs.  (That was always my excuse for a messy house when my kids were little – I was helping them to develop good immunity).  But scientific studies have proven that isolation increases hardening of the arteries and high blood pressure.  Dozens of large studies in the U.S., Scandinavia and Japan have shown that people who are socially disconnected are two to five more times likely to die prematurely compared to those with good community ties.

Here is a quote from the book that struck me as incredibly telling, but also kind of quirky/funny:
“The bottom line from this multitude of studies:  As a rough rule of thumb, if you belong to no groups but decide to join one, you cut your risk of dying over the next year in half.  If you smoke and belong to no groups, it’s a toss-up statistically whether you should stop smoking or start joining.  These findings are in some ways heartening:  it’s easier to join a group than to lose weight, exercise regularly, or quit smoking.”

And here’s something even better – you don’t have to be a “joiner” every single day.  Research has shown that even once a month participation in community makes a significant difference!  That’s totally doable!  Even for a crazy-busy-woman like me!

I would love to talk to you about what I’m learning, about how you feel about these posts, about our community together!  We have some special workshops for that, or you can stop by the shop.  These kinds of conversations are becoming the norm as we navigate through the changes that are coming with the opening of the rail and the closing of yet another mom & pop store.  Just how important is community to us – right here and right now?

So, please make it a habit to stop by once a month (or more)!  You can come to the FREE demos on Tuesday between 12 & 2.  Or join us for the FREE make-and-take on Thursdays between 10 & 8.  Or take a class – here’s a list of what’s available through August, but it gets updated regularly.  Or, take one of our special offerings (listed below).  But come – it’s good for you!

Tuesday, July 15 at 9 AM – Guided Meditation using the Psalms
Saturday, July 19 at 9 AM – Labyrinth Walking Meditation

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Desire to be Known

I have sometimes wondered if the greatest desire of [humanity] is to be known and loved anyway. – Donald Miller

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. – Psalm 139:1
But now you know God, or better still, God knows you. – Galatians 4:9
I’m not going to give you a bunch of statistics and documented studies today.  Today’s post is a little more personal – I guess so you can “know me” a little better :)

This past Saturday, I had to appear before my denomination’s licensing committee for an hour interview.  It was the next step in the journey I’ve been on for several years now.  In the letter of invitation, I was asked to bring a couple of people from my church leadership who “know me”. 
Stop and think about that for just a minute.  
If you had to bring 2 people with you who could vouch for your deepest character – who fully knew the person that you are – who would that be?  In all honesty, there are plenty of days when I don’t fully know who I am!  And, here’s a little bit more honesty for you – I’m not sure the church leadership knows me as well as some other people I could have brought along.  There are lots of reasons for that – when I’m at church, I’m either in a meeting with a specific agenda or attending worship or at a music practice.  All of which I enjoy and find meaningful, and I guess it shows that I am involved and punctual and reliable, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to deep knowledge of who I am.  The intention of this post is not to dog my church (or any church), it’s simply to say there is more to being known than just being present.  

One of the things I have always loved about my store is the opportunity to share our stories.  During classes, our hands are busy, but our mouths are free :))   And even when folks come into the store simply to shop, there’s always a story.  They are looking for the perfect words to include in a card for a critically ill friend.  They are looking for paper to make a scrapbook for their new grandchild.  Sometimes, they don’t come in with a specific mission – they just need a break from the stress of the workday or from caring for their increasingly dependent parent.

One of my favorite things about these conversations is that they often end in a touch or a hug – or a real connection of seeing each other eye-to-eye.  There is a moment of “knowing”.  It is a holy moment.  I think we were made with a deep desire for those moments – a deep desire to be known.  And that is why, when they happen, those moments often bring tears.  It’s like receiving the one gift you really, really wanted.  That joy that your body simply can’t contain.  So, it leaks out your eyes :)
These moments happen with some regularity at our store, but they’ve been happening more frequently this summer as we’ve done some of these extra workshops – the Guided Meditations, the Affirmation Boxes and so on.  It has been exhilarating to be a part of.  I want to invite you to come experience it for yourself.  I would love to get to know you, and to let you know me.  Don’t feel like you have to jump in the deep end.  I never force anyone to share – that’s why I provide notebooks for you to journal in, if that’s more comfortable.  But people have shared as their comfort level dictates, and we’ve all learned more about one another in the process.  Here’s what’s coming up:

Tuesday, June 24 at 9 AM – Guided Meditation using thePsalms

Monday, June 30 at 7 PM – Anointing and Prayer RitualsWorkshop

Saturday, July 19 at 9 AM – Labyrinth Walking Meditation

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Dangers of Loneliness!

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” Dorothy Day

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.”  Hebrews 10:24-25a


Now that I’ve started this blog and have really started thinking about community, I find that I am almost bombarded with more and more evidence that community is vitally important – to stable neighborhoods, nations and even to our own personal health!

On June 9, there was an article on (in the Science section) entitled, “Loneliness is as Deadly as Smoking”.  Wow – that’s provocative!  But look at the statistics cited in the article (with links to the original studies):

  • Studies of elderly people and social isolation concluded that those without adequate social interaction were twice as likely to die prematurely.
  • That increased mortality risk is comparable to the increased risk of premature death related to smoking!  And it is TWICE as dangerous as premature death linked to obesity.
  • Further, social isolation impairs immune function and increases inflammation – these factors can lead to increased risk of arthritis, type II diabetes and heart disease. 

Recent surveys indicate that loneliness has doubled in the last 30 years:  in the 1980s, 20 percent of adults said they were lonely.  Today that number is 40 percent (as calculated in two independent surveys)!

The article had even more alarming statistics (like how loneliness affects sleep), but I think you get the point.  It is imperative that we make time in our busy schedules to truly connect with one another.  If you have a place where you have good friendships and true connections – consider yourself fortunate!  If you don’t, and want a place to start, join us!  As I mentioned, we do a lot of things in community.  We have several ongoing community outreach projects, like collecting baby quilts for Young Lives and collecting gently used craft supplies for the Herndon Senior Center.  We have FREE Learn at Lunch demos every Tuesday from 12 – 2.  We have FREE card make-and-take projects every Thursday from 10 – 8.  We have Theme Nights on the last Wednesday night of the month. 
This summer, we’ve been adding other get-togethers to our list of activities as I continue to explore what it means to be community.  So far, we’ve had two sessions of Guided Meditations that have been wonderfully refreshing!  We’ve also had two sessions of the Affirmation’s Box workshop.  

Here’s what’s coming up soon on the horizon:

Let me know if you have questions about any of these.  I would love to hear from you!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Who Am I?

“Community is a sign that love is possible in a materialistic world where people so often either ignore or fight each other. It is a sign that we don't need a lot of money to be happy--in fact, the opposite.” Jean Vanier

“God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.” Genesis 1:31


As I mentioned in my last post, I’m reading the book Bowling Alone.  This book examines the decline of community in America, and the important role community plays.  One of the things that has surprised me the most as I have read this book is the timing of the collapse of community.  I would have thought it began with the advent of television.  But that’s not the case.  Community continued to thrive until the late 1990’s.  The internet has had much more of a negative effect on community than television.  Who knew?  

One of the statistics that jumped out at me was that in the heyday of community, a survey was taken by Gallup to determine American’s confidence in their neighbors.  The results of the survey indicated that a strong majority of people (77%) believed that most people can be trusted.  While the book doesn’t spell it out, I suspect that it’s because we knew our neighbors and were in community with them.  (Of course, neighbors are more than just those who live in proximity to you).  

The book goes on to say that in the late 1990s, several surveys were conducted.  Here are some of the startling results:

  • “77% of those surveyed said the nation was worse off because of less involvement in community activities.”
  • “75% said that the breakdown of community and selfishness were serious or extremely serious problems in America."
  • “Only 8% of all Americans said that the honesty and integrity of the average American were improving, as compared with 50% who thought Americans were becoming less trustworthy.”
  • “The number of people who thought Americans were becoming less civil was 80% versus 12% who thought we were becoming more civil.”
  • And finally, “Our society is focused more on the individual than the community and yet more than 80% felt there should be more emphasis on community, even if that put more demands on individuals.”

It seems that we are becoming a country of extremes.  You either have money or you don’t.  You are either overly self-confident (bordering on arrogant) or you lack confidence and self-esteem.  These extremes foster a breakdown of community, in part because we don’t know our true place in it.
As I said, I’ve been thinking about this a lot.  Seminary will do that to you, but that’s not my only perspective.  I’ve been watching the number of people participating in my store, in churches, in civic groups and even in politics decline over the years, and research is supporting my observations.  Why is that?  Maybe it’s because we haven’t given any thought to it at all because we’re busy.  Maybe it’s because we think we are just one person, so how important can it be whether or not we participate in community.  Or maybe we think we’re too important to spend time in that way.  

My first Guided Meditation workshop is this Wednesday at 9 AM.  We’ll be using the poetry of the Psalms, and the first one we’ll be meditating on is Psalm 8.  It addresses the age old question “Who am I?”.  I’ll be providing you with a journal to record your thoughts as we go through the session.  You don’t have to share anything aloud, if you don’t want to, so don’t be nervous to join us and explore who you are and what it means to be in community. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Crafting Alone

“No man is an island.” John Donne

The Lord God said, "It is not good for man to be alone."  Genesis 2:18

As I look back over the last eleven years that we’ve had our little haven of community, I think about what has changed.  Some changes have been for the better:  like our increased inventory (aren’t these pictures hilarious!  They are from the day we opened!!!), and the left-turn arrow.  Some have not been as wonderful, like when they changed our address and GPS and UPS couldn’t find us for weeks.  One of the biggest changes, of course, has been the Internet!  When we opened, we processed credit cards with a modem, and we were the primary source for product education.  But YouTube has really changed things for us.  You can literally find out how to do ANYTHING on YouTube.  

Of course, that’s been hard for us and for many small businesses (think of your local bookstores).  But it’s also impacted society – believe it or not.  Even with as connected as we are electronically, we are more alone than ever.  I have just started reading Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, and it’s really speaking to me.  The book was written by Robert Putnam, a Harvard professor of public policy, and published in 2000.
In this book, Putnam identifies “social capital”.  This is much more than just networking, because the community that forms improves the lives, not only of the individual, but also of the society surrounding it.  I’m going to talk more about that in future posts, but I wanted to give you an example from my experience here at the shop.  We offer FREE make-and-takes every Thursday.  A couple of single ladies started coming every Thursday after work, so they ran into each other here frequently.  A friendship developed that began to extend outside our walls.  And one day, one of the ladies came in during the work day.  I asked her if she had the day off.  “No,” she replied, “Jane had a dentist appointment, so I took the day off to drive her.”  That is a thriving community that only happens when people get out and meet each other.  I will give more examples of that, too, as I add to this blog.

Lots of research has been done to indicate that community is important.  In order for community to thrive, we all need to participate.  We are increasing the times, days and kinds of workshops we have available to try to meet your need for community.  Please join us!  There’s no community without you.  We have FREE demos every Tuesday from 12 – 2.  We have a FREE make-and-take project every Thursday from 10 – 8.  We have crafting workshops several times each week.  And we’ve now added a more holistic series of workshops to our offerings this summer.  I have scheduled the first Guided Meditation workshop for Wednesday morning, June 4 at 9 AM, and the Affirmations Box workshop for Monday evening, June 9 at 6 PM.  We would love to see you at any of these offerings and share in your lives.