My Favorite Words

Words matter. I am a person who tends to value the connecting point of words to action, how words and action come together. I also tend to be suspicious of words that result in no action and action that is reflexive, just following a familiar habit with no sense of purpose or insight. In short, I like visions but visions without follow through are useless by my standard. But to craft an action with sustaining power one must use words that evoke imagination and inspiration.

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Oddly my two favorite words are not ones that bring to mind grand ideas or bold difference making, I just like the memories they bring back.

Toggle: (noun)

1: a piece or device for holding or securing: such as, a pin inserted in a nautical knot to make it more secure or easier to slip or a crosspiece attached to the end of or to a loop in something (such as a chain, rope, line, strap, or belt) usually to prevent slipping, to serve in twisting or tightening, or to hold something attached.

2: a device consisting of two bars jointed together end to end but not in line so that when a force is applied to the joint tending to straighten it pressure will be exerted on the parts adjacent or fixed to the outer ends of the bars 

3: computers: a setting that can be switched between two different options by performing a single action (such as selecting a menu option or pressing a key)

And…

Symmetry: (noun)

1: balanced proportions, beauty of form arising from balanced proportions

2: the property of being symmetrical, especially: correspondence in size, shape, and relative position of parts on opposite sides of a dividing line or median plane or about a center or axis

3: a rigid motion of a geometric figure that determines a one-to-one mapping onto itself  

4: the property of remaining invariant under certain changes (as of orientation in space, of the sign of the electric charge, of parity, or of the direction of time flow) —used of physical phenomena and of equations describing them

I am not sure why I like these two words so much but I hunch it may have to do with the feel of the toggles that were attached to my old winter coats and the overall joy I feel when I witness the symmetry of objects in my midst. One word is a tangible object and the other is a vision.

Likewise in my life I am most moved to participate in events, communities and causes that couple together direct action with a larger narrative of purpose. In short I like to see results and know these results serve a cause greater than self. I lack patience for the process that bring these actions and this larger vision together. I gravitate immediately to putting in place a larger story with a fixed plan for results. I tend to leave the details and the process to others.

Why is this assessment important? In community we need to know our role, our place, how we fit in. I need to be involved in ways that allow me to participate in story-telling, particularly stories that tell larger stories about the human condition. I further need to be involved in seeing this story come to some outcome, where a difference in made to someone, somewhere. And I need to partner with people who can supplement these gifts and passions with an attention to detail and process.

I have worked in communities that had little patience for attaching purpose and reflection to their mission and some that had little interest in direct action, preferring to wax eloquently about an issue than to get one’s hand dirty and do something concrete. And I have sometimes failed to appreciate the value of those who offer their mastery of detail and process. As the young people say, that is “my bad”. Churches tend to be places that put a high premium on relationships and tasks and have little patience for the larger questions and process. I once served a church where the one and only compliment given to volunteers was “s/he is a doer”. Not surprisingly I too was valued for my work ethic and effectiveness but that community was not terribly interested in my “higher purpose” reminders. In short they tolerated my interest in crafting mission themes and lauded my hard work.

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All of us need to be aware of what we bring to communities, what we lack and how these various skills fit together for the good of the whole. The Apostle Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth focused on this message and it is a good reminder to me, to all of us, as we engage in this important work.

I had a lot of good intentions

Sit around for fifty years and then collect a pension,

Started seeing the road to hell and just where it starts

But my life is more than a vision

The sweetest part is acting after making a decision

I started seeing the whole as a sum of its parts

Indigo Girls “Hammer and a Nail”