In Rebecca del Rio’s beautiful poem, “The Comfort of Questions,” she writes:

We built a house
together, one without a roof,
All night it opened
to dark, abundant emptiness–
the questions without answers.

I can think of no better way of describing what took place when we gathered this last weekend for our first ever “30 Under 40” retreat (officially called Courage to Lead: A Courage & Renewal® Retreat for Young Leaders and Activists). A diverse crew of young clergy, organizers, educators, writers, entrepreneurs, and designers came together with Parker Palmer and Marcy Jackson as our fearless facilitators, took a great metaphorical deep breath, and reflected on the shape of our own lives.

The retreat began with a miracle, as all of those originally committed figured out a way to get to The Guest House in Chester, Connecticut, despite the fact that our primary mode of available transportation, the train, was knocked out by Hurricane Sandy. It took just hours and a dozen or so emails to get people, many of them perfect strangers, coordinated in cars, determined not to let the weather prevent the renewal.

So we arrived in the circle already bonded by the strange moment in which we gathered. Questions so often follow disasters. This time, we had a very special home in which to formulate and explore ours.

Questions were, I would posit, the true hero of our post-disaster gathering. We learned how to ask open, honest questions under the wise tutelage of Parker, Marcy, and one another. We learned to listen, not only to the person sitting knee to knee with us, but to ourselves. We learned to try easier.

It was an uncommon space for all of us–a space where our burn out, our imposter syndrome, our struggles with mentors, our gifts, passions, and courage all intermingled. It was a space where the absence of things was also profound–no cell phones, no statusizing, no reward for being smart. Many of us are trying on power–real world power–for the first time and we are not sure it fits quite right. The retreat was a space where we could say that out loud, study the discomfort, begin to trust ourselves again.

Right after a hurricane, we built a house together. It was unlike any home we’ve ever known.

This is why I serve The Center for Courage & Renewal. My board leadership and donations to the Center’s Annual Campaign support this kind of experience for others. As I told Parker and Marcy, I offer 40,000 thank yous and counting for all the incredible human beings who have had the deep bow to their humanity that the Center provides. It’s awe inspiring.


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