A few months ago, when I really needed it, a friend shared a poem with me by William Stafford called “The Way It Is”:
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
I find comfort in this poem as I navigate our ever-perplexing political and cultural climate. I cling to that thread when I feel angered or saddened or paralyzed or sometimes all of the above. It’s hard to describe what exactly my thread is. It’s some combination of social justice and my spiritual foundation. I suppose you could simply say my thread is progress. For you it may be something else. Whatever it may be, the key is identifying it and holding onto it.
My favorite line in the poem is “You have to explain about the thread.” It reminds me that many do not understand why I choose to stick so closely to my values as a social worker, as an activist, as a feminist, as a woman of the Christian faith. And so sometimes I need to explain about the thread.
Stafford’s poem also reminds me of the gift of community – the dozens of individuals with whom I’ve learned and grown with in the School of Social Work over the last 18 months. They are, in many ways, holding onto the same thread of progress as I am. We are moving through our world together. This is not to say that we are all the same. We have our own perspectives, experiences, and motivators. But I think on a broader scale, we come together through this diversity and we do not have to go it alone. When it comes to this community, I don’t have to explain about the thread. Because they’re right there moving forward with me. They get it. And I am so grateful.