I was writing an email to a friend today and found myself saying about our family, “We are all well and choose to not travel to support The Great Effort.” I like this phrase - The Great Effort. Yes, that’s what we are being asked to do and what will save us: The Great Effort.

Each word in this phrase is important. Whether we are working on our health, a home project, parenting, our primary relationship(s), or a community need, it usually takes “a great effort” to reach our goals.

“Effort” is not necessarily a state we run toward. When I explain to people that the changes they want to make for themselves will involve work, many are sorry to hear that. We want to believe that once we have learned something new, we can naturally put it to action with no looking back. Those of us in recovery from addictions know well that is not so. We know that “effort” means we will show up daily with our intentions, new skills, new knowledge, and practice the changes we are making. It is work to remember to do all of these things, and it is work to practice them when we easily can slip into our usual ways. Effort is needed.

“Great” speaks to both the extent to which I, as an individual, need to expend my energies toward the goal and to the extent to which collective movement toward the goal is imperative.  When an individual is in recovery from an addiction, consistent and clear support from family and friends as well as changes in their behaviors make a world of difference in fostering recovery for all. “Great” means that when I don’t want to do something that will make a positive difference for the larger world, I go ahead and do it. “Great” means that we are all in this together and what I choose has an effect that ripples out and out and out.

“The” highlights the importance of this Great Effort. It is “The Great Effort” needed to stop the spread of this pandemic and to give us safe spaces to restore ourselves, our communities, and our world. This is possible and quite likely with great effort on the part of each of us together.

Just days before the killing frost that took my COVID garden, I gathered this box of flowers, herbs, and vegetables to give to a friend.  Each of these varieties grew through the great, collective effort of the sun, soil, and water. They grew through my faithfulness in their care, through advice I was given from others about growing them, and through their natural ability to share their garden beds with each other so they all grew well and strong – and quite beautifully!


The ideas I have been suggesting for Living Closely Indefinitely are challenging. Celebrate Together, Honor Separate, and Expect Less - topics covered in my last three blogs – invite us to operate in ways that may not be our first-choice ways of being. Maybe we generally like to have our own space and are not happy about always being around others in our family. Maybe we have trouble leaving others in our household alone when they disappear into their rooms or go off on a walk and don’t invite us along. And certainly suggesting we lower the bar for what we can hope for or expect from our self and others is not the direction we often go.

Learning to Respect Different can be equally challenging both in understanding what this means and in living in this way.

Respect Different is acknowledging that we each have different thoughts, beliefs, emotional responses, choices we make, and actions we take. We are different people with different natures and nurtures interplaying within our self.

First we do well to be anchored in our self, to know what we are thinking and feeling and why we are choosing what we choose. This self-discerning process can be rich and calming. It helps us to be aware and intentional and to act in ways that are consistent with who we are.

Then, as we encounter Different in the next person we see, we want to listen to them and understand them. We do not have to agree with them. We are only seeking to hear them and for them to feel heard by us. Rather than interrupting and jumping in with our ideas and beliefs, we listen and make sure we have heard them accurately. We may find that we want to respond with some of our own thoughts and ideas, even our concerns for safety and justice. We can do this after we have heard and understand what they are saying.

The caution for us as we speak up is in knowing when to stop, to not go further, to agree to disagree perhaps. Our mental health is helped by not getting too entangled with trying to convince or change someone else.

I can only control my self, and I am grateful to know this reality.  I can speak my truth, explain my truth, and then the best thing I can do is go live out that truth in ways that are consistent with my beliefs. I may have to set boundaries as a result of these differences. That’s okay and important to do. Those boundaries further clarify where I stand, and they show respect for both my self and the other person by not having endless, unproductive, and self-eroding arguments over our differences.

Know what is true for me, live what is true for me, and respect the differences in others. That’s what these peppers from my Covid Garden did.  I took this picture long before frost, anticipating this blog. My little basket overflows with green peppers, red peppers, sweet peppers – large and small. Each pepper grew according to the interplay of its nature and nurture. They are all peppers, but each is different.

We are all together in an overflowing basket, too, so to speak. Our mental health and our relationships with each other can be helped by the lessons from this beautiful assortment of peppers who grew together in my garden.