Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What Must I Do?

Lately I have been doing a lot  of prep work for The Gathering, which I have written about in this space before. On Monday, I met with a group of women to pitch the event, hoping more than a few of them would sign up to attend. I talked about how we found Patti Digh, our keynote speaker, and the other women we have invited to lead breakout groups designed to spark creativity within us — in work, in community, in faith and daily life. Being part of the planning for an event we hope will help reshape the lives of many has been daunting, and so rewarding to me.

One of the many questions Patti asks in her book, Creative Is A Verb, is this: What is the one thing you MUST do?

We all have our daily "musts". Today, for instance, I must work, set up a new computer, create and distribute a weekly e-newsletter. I must have my Diet Coke, must finish this post, must check to see if I have enough money in the bank, must make the bed, clean out the coffee pot, walk the dog, write my Christmas thank you notes, plan supper. A long list.

But if I didn't do one of those things — or all of those things — the world wouldn't shake on its axis, and few, if any, would care at all. (Well, the dog would care, my mother would care about the notes, and my husband might not care about supper, too much.)

But this kind of must is different from the daily must do, something so imbedded in our souls that if we don't do it, we somehow feel a lost. 

So I asked the women, most of whom I know fairly well, to take three minutes and think about it. Write it down. What must they do, or they would not feel whole? Just one thing. 

Here's what they said:

Knit. Talk. Exercise. Organize. Connect. Be part of a church community. As they shared, I got a better sense of their inner lives, of what makes them who they are. And how their "must" connects them to those around them. Each of them, unknowingly, is creating art in her daily life, just by living within that must. The knitter showed her scarf. The talker talked of losing her singing voice to surgery, but of gaining her willingness to speak up. The organizer shared this: that hidden in that need to organize was her real need to connect people with each other, to find places where their talents can be shared.

As I listened, I thought: now this is one thing I "must" do. Pull the story out, particularly from those who think they don't have one. It gives me such joy to hear someone say: I never thought about it just that way before, when I ask a question and a story tumbles out of them that surprises. It's usually something they do think about but regard as so small, it is not worth sharing.

But of course it is the tiniest of things that can mean the biggest of things, when considered a new way. And what I must do, is capture those moments that bring meaning to the musts.