Friday roundup: Five things worth paying attention to this week

Sheltering in place offers opportunities to contact old friends, make family Zoom meetings more regular, read books that need dusting off, watching movies and TV series missed and, best of all, being with those we love on FaceTime and other connections. And there is time for silence, with each other and with God, and for great conversations. This week we are talking about the following…

1. Leadership in Crisis. Our friend from Australia sent us a link to a thought-provoking article on leadership that holds up New Zealand as a prime example. He says, wittily, “In the past we have said that we should make New Zealand the seventh state of Australia. Now we say can we become the third island of New Zealand.” The article quotes U.S.-based professors Jaqueline and Milton Mayfield whose research finds three characteristics of effective leadership: 1) direction giving: 2) meaning making; and 3) empathy. All these are visible in New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, as well as our own governor, Gavin Newsome, but missing in “leaders” elsewhere in the world. Sets one thinking long thoughts.

2. Virtual memorial, actual farewell. The long distance grief of saying farewell online when someone we love has died is familiar when one lives abroad—David was in China when his brother Fred passed and our daughter Judy spoke for David—but now having a memorial online becomes surprisingly personal. Our friend Mel Curry died on Good Friday and tributes are coming from across the country. David Kniss passed on Easter morning, and our family is grieving with sister Esther Augsburger through personal notes. It seems both unreal and painfully real, alone and yet together, sheltered yet in solidarity, separate yet one. Love leaps limitations.

3. Anxiety baking. Recommended for years as a physical activity that grounds the mind in the direct experience of the body and senses, now anxiety baking is more-with-less therapy. A chorus of voices, speaking with their mouths full, acclaim “Quarantine –b\Baking” as good for mental health. Bread, cake, pie, cookies, biscuits, quiche and cinnamon rolls show that our oven has a master’s degree in tranquility. Check this article from the LA Times for calming ideas.

4. Quarantined character in novel. If one is looking for a good novel to reveal a parallel story while quarantined, Leann has turned to A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. Restricted by court to an attic room in the Metropol Hotel, Count Rostov seeks “models for mastering circumstances in order to be a different sort of captive. Circumstances have conspired not to distract us, but to present us with time and solitude.” One remembers other stories of solitary life—prison, arctic cabin, ocean raft, Jeremiah comes to mind, and Job with spouse and friends oppressively close but emotionally absent. What a privilege to have the link of a computer screen or the FaceTime of a phone at hand.

5. Mother Nature reclaiming the earth. A walk around the block is like a new world emerging. Birds in abundance, their songs a feathered concerto, the air crystalline, snow on Mt. Baldy a purest white, distant mountains appear from nowhere on the horizon. A month of sheltering and blessed spring rains have washed the landscape, cleansed the atmosphere. A harbinger of what is possible (harbinger, the word for a tiny bird on the mast of a sailing ship announcing the approach of land.) We could do something about the impending death of the planet. Stop sinning against creation. Earthrise.

David and Leann Augsburger are two semiretired people who co-lead a home-based church (Peace Mennonite Church, Claremont, California) and volunteer to welcome, care and connect people in the San Gabriel valley.

David and Leann Augsburger

David and Leann Augsburger are two semiretired people (CA school psychologist, Fuller Seminary professor) who co-lead a home-based church (Peace Read More

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