For many the turning of the season into bright colors and crunching leaves underfoot means settling in with family and friends for game nights. For others it means going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark. People chatting over meals and coffee in houses of worship may linger a bit longer as the icy cold settles over the Midwest. In this pandemic time our seasonal rituals have been upended, including gathering with others, being full of gratitude for bounty great and small, and offering grace in a personal gesture.
We are no different at Environmental Initiative. Hot coffee and tea, sweet treats from any one of our in-house bakers, and the beloved Chili Cookoff were the in-office norm until 2020 changed everything. The online meetings seem to blend as night descends earlier each day. How do we gather in meaningful ways through video? This year’s answer was a SOUPer lunch. Each participant submitted a recipe and selected one to prepare. Over lunch people popped on and off the video to guess who submitted each recipe, offer preparation tips, and share feedback on taste. We also learned the cookbook has been shared as a gift to others outside our work team.
The SOUPer lunch was well attended. New stories about family, travel, friends, and gardens were shared. Debates sprung up over adding mushrooms, or not. Big laughs rang out over a conversation of a concoction called “Witch’s Brew.” Smiles grew, everyone relaxed, and the time seemed, if only for a while, almost “normal.” As we began to sign off the SOUPer lunch an interesting thing took place on-line. “The Minnesota Good-bye” was with us. The team didn’t want to let go of that moment and everyone expressed gratitude for such a creative lunch. We lingered over the simple gifts held within that hour.
At the end of the call, gratitude turned to grace. The reality that a growing number within our community will not have enough food, a warm enough home, or even a home within which to share their seasonal rituals with loved ones was held in shared silence. We move ever more firmly into the world as members of this team are called to do extraordinary work in difficult times. Acknowledging we will make mistakes along the way; that as children of recent and long-ago immigrants we live on land held by ancient people; that racism must be dismantled; and the environment matters for our health, we ask and offer grace to those who travel with us on our journey. The journey to collaborate across perspectives, power, and systems to build an inclusive, just, and thriving world for all beings.