September

"Work and Play"

Small-Group Session (1 of 2)

 

Set-Up

Before the session starts, the leader should set chairs in a circle, with a chalice and matches on a small table in the middle, or somewhere visible to participants.  Make sure the strips of paper for “Readings from the Common Bowl” are in the bowl.  Welcome people, and allow folks to settle before lighting the chalice.

 

Chalice Lighting and Opening Words

The group leader lights the chalice (or asks someone else to) and then, with the intent of creating sacred space, reads the following words:

 “What Work Is”, Phillip Levine

 

We stand in the rain in a long line

waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.

You know what work is—if you’re

old enough to read this you know what

work is, although you may not do it.

Forget you. This is about waiting,

shifting from one foot to another.

Feeling the light rain falling like mist

into your hair, blurring your vision

until you think you see your own brother

ahead of you, maybe ten places.

You rub your glasses with your fingers,

and of course it’s someone else’s brother,

narrower across the shoulders than

yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin

that does not hide the stubbornness,

the sad refusal to give in to

rain, to the hours of wasted waiting,

to the knowledge that somewhere ahead

a man is waiting who will say, “No,

we’re not hiring today,” for any

reason he wants. You love your brother,

now suddenly you can hardly stand

the love flooding you for your brother,

who’s not beside you or behind or

ahead because he’s home trying to   

sleep off a miserable night shift

at Cadillac so he can get up

before noon to study his German.

Works eight hours a night so he can sing

Wagner, the opera you hate most,

the worst music ever invented.

How long has it been since you told him

you loved him, held his wide shoulders,

opened your eyes wide and said those words,

and maybe kissed his cheek? You’ve never

done something so simple, so obvious,

not because you’re too young or too dumb,

not because you’re jealous or even mean

or incapable of crying in

the presence of another man, no,   

just because you don’t know what work is. 

 

Brief Check-In

Invite each person, in turn, to share a brief answer to the check-in question.  The check-in question is: “How is your spirit?”

 

Readings from the common bowl

The leader passes around the bowl, with strips of paper that have quotes on them.  Invites each person to take one strip/quote out of the bowl. Then, invites each to read the quotes.  They don’t have to read in order, one right next to the last one.  But instead, invite them to allow some silence after every quote, and then to see if the quote they picked out of the bowl should go next or not.  (See additional page for quotes; these are the quotes that will be torn into separate strips, and put in the bowl before the meeting)

 

Focusing Question

After everyone has read the different statements, the leader asks the central question that will guide the session’s discussion: “What is work and does it define you?  What is the role of work in our lives?  Where does work fail our spirit and where does it help us thrive?”

 

First Round

Leader invites attendees to take no more than 2 minutes to share a response to the question.  Find a way to gently hold the group to the no-more-than-2-minute limit.  Also, let people know there’s no cross-talk to the responses: group-members don’t answer the statements people make.  One person speaks for oneself, then the next person does the same.  It’s not a conversation, so much as a series of statements. Again, each with some silence or space between. And, again, voices don’t need to go in order, with people sitting beside each other speaking—just as the spirit moves.

 

Silence

After hearing everyone’s statements, the leader invites the group to sit in silence for 2-3 minutes.  This is not time for them to plan what they’ll say.  It’s time to sit and be present, to let whatever comes up, come up. 

 

Second round, reflections on what was heard, with additional thoughts

Whereas in the first round, attendees were encouraged to stick to their own thoughts, here in the second round, people can respond to some of what they heard.  Again, encourage brevity—whether a formal 2-minute limit is enforced or not, encourage the conversation to move from one place to another in the circle, not getting dragged down to one or two voices who speak at length.  It’s OK for people to respond to each other’s comments but the responses should not be attempts to fix a dilemma raised, correct someone’s feelings or .

 

Likes and wishes

The leader asks for people to share, as they’re moved, what they liked about the session, and what they wish for next time, that they may or may not have experienced this time.

 

Closing Words & Extinguishing the Chalice 

“Go and get your things,' he said. 'Dreams mean work.” 
― Paulo Coelho, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept



 Quotes for The Common Bowl


“Every person needs to take one day away.  A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future.  Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.  Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.  Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” 
― Maya Angelou, Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now 

 

“The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.” 
― Émile Zola 

 

“In a very real sense not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do his work, to bear his glory. If we are qualified, we tend to think that we have done the job ourselves. If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification, then there's no danger that we will confuse God's work with our own, or God's glory with our own.” 
― Madeleine L'Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art 

 

 

“Each man had only one genuine vocation - to find the way to himself....His task was to discover his own destiny - not an arbitrary one - and to live it out wholly and resolutely within himself. Everything else was only a would-be existence, an attempt at evasion, a flight back to the ideals of the masses, conformity and fear of one's own inwardness.” 
― Herman Hesse 

 

I hustle

upstream.

I grasp.

I grind.

I control & panic. Poke

balloons in my chest,

always popping there,

always my thoughts thump,

thump. I snooze — wake & go

boom. All day, like this I short

my breath. I scroll & scroll.

I see what you wrote — I like.

I heart. My thumb, so tired.

My head bent down, but not

in prayer, heavy from the looking.

I see your face, your phone-lit

faces. I tap your food, two times

for more hearts. I retweet.

I email: yes & yes & yes.

Then I cry & need to say: no-no-no.

-Tiana Clark, excerpt My Therapist Wants to Know About My Relationship to Work 

 

“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” 
― Mary Oliver