by Pia Fritsch, Prairiewoods Intern

I sat in on the facilities meeting this Thursday. Since I’ve never sat in on a facilities meeting at any other place it’s difficult to have perspective on this, but I am pretty sure that it is run slightly different here. The meeting started with a gong to the singing bowl. Then someone read a short poem which lead into a reflection on the two types of impulses, to put together and to break apart, as personified by Christopher Columbus and Carl Jung. After that was another short poem and a country song reflecting on how we are “growing houses” where the corn fields used to be. I appreciated how the meeting brought attention to the big picture of the world right now through the artistic forms of poetry and music. I personally love poetry and poetic music so that in itself made the meeting better for me, but I also think that it is a good idea to draw the attention to the global-historic context before going in on the details of Prairiewoods. The cinnamon rolls Nancy made helped everyone enjoy the meeting more as well.

Once discussion of Prairiewoods started, we started with the positive aspects. Someone lead a short prayer then staff members were given the chance to say something that had gone well in their area of ministry. This gave people an opportunity to say something good that they had accomplished recently and be recognized for it. Then the agenda gave people the space to say something good that they had noticed in other people’s areas. This approach helps open people to the next question which was “What situations have you experienced or noticed that ‘pulls us apart.’” I particularly like the way that this is phrased, because it doesn’t put blame anywhere. It actually points to the root issue which is the stresses that disintegrate relationships. This is a really important distinction between singling out people for the times when they didn’t act in the most beneficial ways and pointing to the situations that don’t bring out the best in us. People were ready to answer this question once it was raised. This is a small organization that does a big job, and that can be stressful. Prairiewoods seems to work because people really do love their work and the environment that it creates here. There is really no better foundation than that. From there, everyone can come together to give feedback on the positive aspects and constructive criticism on the areas that could be improved.

From that question, it went back to how we could improve Prairiewoods by ‘adding wings’ as continued from the theme of the first poem. This answer was usually included in the constructive criticism. I felt like on the whole the facilities meeting and the way it was led created space to work on continuing to improve the functioning of the whole of Prairiewoods. It is reaffirming that I don’t see any things, from my relatively outside perspective, to improve upon. This means that there aren’t any glaring problems, but like any relationship, there is always room for improvement. Prairiewoods is an organization that thrives on the collection of relationships that makes Prairiewoods what it is. This meeting helps those relationships stay strong.

In addition to the facilities meeting I got the chance to have spiritual direction with Sister Betty. We started off with the question of “How do I see God?” It was then that I realized for all of my scripture reading and all of my spiritual discussions and environmental philosophy. I really don’t have a clear answer for this question. I have a few images of how I perceive God, but none of them really express a divinity I can relate to. I have several very intellectualized perceptions of God, but nothing I feel connected to on a deep level. Sister Betty reflected back to me that I am still searching for a representation of God, and I am. It made me realize once again that I have so many unanswered questions in my life. For the past three years I have continually had to come to grips with the profound realization that I know nothing and that I can predict nothing. I know nothing, because every new book and class and situation in my life keeps changing the way I look at the world. I can predict nothing, because so many surprising things keep happening. In my reaction to those things, I keep surprising myself. This happens so much that I have no way of saying what will happen in the future, let alone the present. I like to think that I am ok with this. In that meeting though, I had to admit that I don’t know what I’m going to do once I graduate, and that makes me scared. I desperately want to do something meaningful, but I don’t know what that thing is. I am motivated both by the fear that I won’t be able to support myself or make a difference doing something I love and also the fear that I will only ever do what is expected of me and nothing more.

This relates deeply with the first Thomas Merton meeting I went to. The reading was on acting on your deepest passions. It said that your deepest passions are what the world needs and are in fact what God is calling you to do. I have always resonated with this idea and have used it as a guiding principle for major decisions. However, now that I am faced with this time when I have to shift from being a student my whole life into the working world I am particularly frightened. There is no guarantee that there is a place that needs me. I still don’t even know what exactly it is that I want to do. It’s more like an inkling than an irrevocable dedication as the reading described it. Even so, I found the spiritual direction helpful, because I could express what was going on inside, see it from another angle, and start to look for the places where the God-figure was acting in my life.