By Heather Claycomb, Director All Good Ventures
gath·er | ˈga-t͟hər
As we enter the 2020 holiday season, the topic of gathering has never been as relevant as it this year. At a time when Covid is preventing us from being with loved ones and governments are imposing stay-at-home orders across the world, I believe now is the time to ‘gather’ like never before.
This is a topic I’ve pondered all year and today seems like a great time to share my ponderings with you. While the topic isn't related to 'social enterprise,' per se, it does relate to living your purpose and I hope it might help you to hone and ensure you are on track for living yours.
The gathering begins
One day in October last year (2019), I was mindlessly scrolling through Pinterest and happened upon the above rustic sign: Gather.
I was immediately drawn to the word, created a new Pinterest board and began pinning different versions of the sign in a variety of colours, fonts and woods. After weeks of staring at this word in a weirdly obsessive way, I settled on my preferred sign style and commissioned a local artist to construct it.
Just before Christmas 2019 I received my gather sign in the post and, that very day, excitedly hung it on a wall in our beach house.
“This is perfect timing,” I thought. That’s because the holidays, for my husband Rod and I, signal the time of year for us when the most gathering takes place. It’s ‘gathering season,’ shall we say.
On Boxing Day our friends would arrive to spend a week with us, as has been our friendship holiday tradition for 15 years. My parents would arrive on 12 January from the US to spend three months of summer in New Zealand to escape their Pennsylvania winter – as has also been tradition for 15 years.
Plus, the long summer days that linger after Christmas would inevitably usher in everything from weekends with friends to quick pop-ins from people passing through.
The season of ‘gathering’ was upon us. Ah, bliss!
(You see where this is heading, right?)
Pretty much straight after I hung the sign, the unravelling of the gathering began:
A few days before Christmas our friends cancelled their holiday plans when their daughter’s anorexia became critical. Then four days before my parent’s planned arrival, my mother discovered bowel cancer and phoned to say they wouldn’t make the trip.
While, of course, our thoughts were with our friends and family, I have to admit Rod and I selfishly wallowed for a few weeks. Woe is us!
But our lonely days had only just begun as the Covid-19 wave hit New Zealand in February and during March we went into a government-mandated four-week lockdown. We couldn’t even gather with strangers at a café, for goodness sake!
To top it all off, around the same time as lockdown came into force, a young friend’s lung cancer returned with a vengeance, but restrictions meant we couldn’t be with her and the family. And another friend’s heartbreaking journey with terminal brain cancer half way across the world had just begun.
New Zealand’s borders are now closed. They closed in March and will remain closed well into 2021. As a result, my ticket to the US in April was refunded and our August trip home was cancelled. We are unable to get out of the country and no one we love is getting in.
Literally every plan I had to ‘gather’ in 2020 has been well and truly quashed.
Or has it been?
Well, believe me . . . I’ve had time to ponder this question. And I’d like to propose that never before in living history (of most people, anyway) has there ever been a span in time that has been so incredibly ripe for great GOBS of gathering!
On 1 January 2020, my definition of gather was one-dimensional. It was:
come together; assemble or accumulate.
"gathering with friends is fun"
But as I pondered and studied the word, it became so much more. During my days of unplanned solitude (or ‘dualitude’ alongside my husband), I stared at that word on my sign - GATHER - trying to understand what God wanted me to get from this simple word.
As a Christian, I began this contemplation knowing one thing for sure: God never plants a thought - a fondness, a notion - in our hearts without a very good reason. So, why did He plant the word GATHER so firmly in mine only to leave me bitterly disappointed by the obvious lack thereof?
I believe the reason is: He wants me . . . He wants you . . . He wants the WORLD to ‘gather’ like never before.
The word gather means so much more than the obvious definition of, “come together.” In fact, when you scratch the surface you’ll discover, like I did, that it’s the perfect word for such a time as this.
GATHER: infer; understand.
"I gathered there was more to the situation than met the eye."
Now is the time for us to dig deep and truly contemplate some really complex stuff, such as:
- Is my comfort and temporal need for physical freedom more important than my neighbour’s health?
- How have my perceptions, words and actions contributed to endemic racism in my community. Black lives do matter – am I a contributor to the problem or part of the solution?
- Am I living in a social media bubble that serves me up a skewed view of the world that makes me happy, or am I looking outside myself, my community, and those who think like me to understand and appreciate others’ points of view?
- Is what I’m doing right here, right now what God wants me to do? Am I living in the right place, in the right profession, in the best spiritual place I can be and if I’m not, what am I prepared to do to change?
In 2020 we’ve been forced to retreat and entrench. I know I want to come out of this crazy year with a better understanding of where I’m at and where I’m heading. Am I on track to truly live my purpose.
GATHER: gain or recover (one's breath).
"She paused to gather her breath before beginning the task at hand."
2020 has been one big global pause. The earth itself has even been given the gift of gathering its breath, with pollution levels at an all-time low during lockdowns.
What is 2020 preparing us for, and are we using this time wisely to gather our breath in preparation? The cycle and balance of life provides surety that large pauses are followed by a large surges.
- How am I taking time to prepare for what’s coming next? Am I actively taking time to gather my breath?
- What does gathering my breath actually entail and how do I take the first step?
- How can I build time into my life to slow down, meditate and pray more?
- Am I meant to get my body, mind and soul healthier for the next step of the journey ahead?
No matter where you are around the world, you’ve been given ‘permission’ to take a pause and catch your breath. How are you using this time or are you wasting it?
GATHER: bring together and take in from scattered places or sources.
"I took time to gather the people, along with all they represent, together as one."
2020 is a year where the concept of unity has been a foreign notion. In fact, the media wants you to think unity is a lost cause. Politics, racism, masks, fake news and conspiracy divide us. While isolation widens the chasm even further.
We can choose to ride the wave of division or we can be the catalyst for unification.
- What am I doing to unite my family, my friends and my community?
- How do I put my bias aside and listen to others’ who have different experiences and opinions, so that I can understand what is going on around the world?
- Can I put myself in others’ shoes and bring back the knowledge I gain to better the world around me and contribute in a meaningful way?
- Do I have a gift for ‘gathering’ different people with different views and using the power of diversity to create meaning and revelation for others?
- As a Christian, am I contributing to the concept of ‘one church’ or am I choosing to disparage my fellow believers for their conservative or liberal views?
Now is a time for unity. Let’s start today.
GATHER: summon up (a mental or physical attribute) for a purpose.
"I am gathering the courage to make a change."
Now is the time to gather strength and courage. Because, one thing is for certain, God is preparing us for something big after what we’ve all been through this year!
- Do I have the courage to stop complaining behind closed doors and speak out publicly against racism, hatred, selfishness and fake news?
- What have I put off in my life or been too scared to try that I need to start?
- What steps do I need to take to ‘gather’ strength and courage – what does that process look like?
- What is stirring in the world that is going to take more collective strength and courage from myself and my community than ever before? How do I get ready?
Now is the time to gather courage for what is ahead. We need to get ‘unstuck’ and start taking purposeful action.
GATHER: increase in (speed, force, etc.).
"Their collective desire to do good things gathered momentum and stamped out evil.”
2020 has been a year where both good and evil have gathered momentum.
Protests are a case in point. Many in the world are finally fed up once and for all with racism - #blacklivesmatter – which is amazing to witness. However, many in the world are also choosing to riot against simple acts of courtesy – such as donning a mask – over protecting the health of the vulnerable in their communities. That’s not so good.
- What can I do to help stop the negative momentum in the world and contribute to the positive?
- How can I carefully choose my words, acts and attitudes so that good gathers momentum and triumphs over evil?
This much I know is true: as 2020 draws to a close, NOW is the time to gather. Let’s make it count.