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Last weekend, I polled 200 members of our community asking them three questions.

The first question was: What is diminishing your life right now? Is there anything making you feel tight, constricted, divided?

The most common responses are a feeling of overwhelmed from busyness. Younger people report more relationship concerns (do I really matter) while health concerns and limitations are the issue for older folks.

The other most common answer shared by young and old alike is the climate change in our public conversations. We seem to have a hate crisis in our country. “I do not understand why some of our nation’s leaders are doing what they are doing,” was a repeated sentiment.

The second question on the poll asked: What is saving your life right now? Where are you experiencing a divine spaciousness in your life?

The people who reported too much hurry, shaky relationships and too many health concerns are finding life in face to face encounters, embracing change, being intentional about deploying their awareness and the sense of community at church.

Those struggling with the actions of our nation’s leaders also report gaining a greater clarity about themselves, about why they do what they do. What is diminishing their lives is teaching them to parse out their energy and devotion in mindful ways, researching where they are getting information from when they hear something outrageous.

Toning down our culture’s crisis of hate requires listening; a skill that has atrophied among us as listening is more than waiting for your turn to talk. Toning down the hate involves our curiosity. What can we learn from the migrant orchard worker or the addict or the high school teacher or the health care professional or our restaurant server in our town?

The third poll question was: What boundaries did you cross in discovering such spaciousness?

Here the answers were varied: breaking old habits, being willing to trust, reaching out and listening, confronting my fear, I learned to say “No,” paying attention to the good, finding strength in family and friends and faith.

The old adage rings true again: When I change me – that changes us.

The Rev. Mike Woods is lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in La Crescent.

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