I was headed east when I noticed what at first appeared to be smoke from a fire. It wasn’t until I got closer that I realized it was actually fog rolling in from the lake. Soon, no matter what direction I looked was a haze that made the skyline of Toronto eerily absent. The fog stayed for days.
It was during this time that an unmistakable intense turn happened in the lives of many people I love. In general terms, there was a collective “we’re hitting the end of ourselves”. As I sat on the ground with someone in distress, I found myself with an uncharacteristic empty feeling in my gut. Neither of us could imagine a way forward. With tears stinging my eyes but not even falling, I joined in the lament for broken systems, injustice, trauma, lack of housing, misdiagnosis and overmedicating, estrangements, and the all too constant accumulation of grief.
Just a week prior to this was Story Night, an event that I have yet to really process. When asked about it, I have consistently said that as a group we sat in the risky and messy middle of a lot of things, rare in this increasingly polarized world. At the beginning of the night I suggested that we didn’t need to rush through the lament in order to get to hope. We get to (need to) sit in the disorientation of pain, or as Walter Brueggemann describes, that place where we have, “sunk into the pit”.
There are times when I sit in that pit and the weather does not match the mood, the sunshine taunting me to get up and get on with it. In a strange way, I think the dense fog that just wouldn’t lift was illustrating for me the necessity of being present to the grief. At times it was uncomfortable and very hard to see. All the familiar landmarks became unrecognizable. I had more than a few white-knuckled drives. It even felt claustrophobic.
You can see the city again. The mist has retreated. Are all the lament-worthy things gone too? Unfortunately, no. I did however take notice of a few things. One person had a conversation with someone who had been ignoring them for years. Another has avoided eviction. Yet another had a bit of respite out of the city. I am also hearing from people who attended Story Night and were deeply impacted. It was an example of, as more than one person put it, mutual care. Living into the tension of lament and hope is hard work. I am more convinced than ever that whether we are sitting on the ground with someone or gathered in a room with a lot of people, to navigate both the fog and the sun we need each other.