Last month’s blog post played with oxymorons. This month I’ve moved on to malaprops!
A few weeks ago Governor Jay Inslee held a press conference at which he explained more stringent pandemic guidelines for Washington. I am proud of our newly-reelected governor – he’s thoughtful, strong, articulate.
But of his entire 20 minutes of air time that day, a single word has stayed with me – and that word was one he misspoke, then immediately corrected. He said, “We must be villagent . . . vigilant.”
“Villagent” – a malaprop as perfect as it is instructive. “We must be villagent.” In difficult and unpredictable times like this, it is helpful – and far less daunting – to think about how to live in a VILLAGE rather than in a more impersonal city or in the immense world at large.
A village today doesn’t look much like a village of 100 years ago. It might be worth the time to study today’s neighborhood, or town, or whatever chunk of community feels manageable right now. Study it to figure out what’s the “glue” that will best hold it together in the years to come. Talk with friends and neighbors, ask what works for them, and what doesn’t. Then plan how best to DO the “glue,” to BE the glue that helps the community cohere in a time that has almost no precedent.
Okay, so during our covid isolation time we can’t gather in local coffee shops, and the produce-growing season is mostly finished, and we can’t invite each other over to share a meal. But we CAN support local businesses and local farmers by judiciously ordering take out or delivery. We can buy a share in next year’s Community-Supported Agriculture crops, to assure that those seeds will get in the ground. NOW is the time to be more open-handed if we can, spending a larger portion of our budget to help small businesses and farms survive.
Now is also a time to donate to local service agencies as generously as possible – if not now, when? If not you, who?
Now is a good time to intentionally keep in touch with friends, neighbors, family. Connect with them now, not tomorrow. USE all that technology we were complaining about just a year ago!
And as for sharing meals with friends, how about Zooming some suppertimes? Three nearby friends and I Zoomed our Thanksgiving dinner this year. Each of us prepared a part of the meal, exchanged containers of food on a socially-distanced front porch, then settled in at home to enjoy our feast with the addition of a laptop computer on each dining table. For three hours we ate “together,” exclaimed over the food, shared memories, and even had delightfully silly finger-puppet skits!
Do you fret over national politics? I suggest that we let go of our doomscrolling through the news headlines, and learn more about how our local government works. Being villagent in covid-time doesn’t mean we have to suddenly reinvent government. But it might mean we choose to participate more on a local level. Maybe we could plan to run for a local office. (Yikes!) If that’s too daunting, how about volunteering for a non-profit Board? Choose one that provides services that matter most to you in your community. Or offer to serve on a non-elected committee for your town or county government, or on the neighborhood homeowners’ association. That’s “doing the glue”; that’s being villagent.
What will be asked of us next? What other huge changes are just beyond the horizon? Whatever they are, it’s certain that we’ll have to be creative, be inventive; we’ll have to learn, and use, new skills, be connective and compassionate and adaptable enough to help our local “village” life survive and thrive.
Nor surprisingly, Dictionary.com and Merriam-Webster both have announced that the Word of the Year for 2020 is “pandemic.”
Maybe the Word of the Year for 2021 will be the perfect malaprop: “villagent.”
[Note FYI: on November 22 I gave a sermon, titled “The Art of Loss,” for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Whidbey Island. You can find the Zoom audio/video at https://uucwi.org . That will take you to the UUCWI home page; click on Service Archive to see the entire service, which was lovely. My 16-minute sermon begins at about the 18-minute mark of that video.]
I was just thinking about you and realized I hadn’t seen your blog posts for some time and yeah!. A fresh one that made me say yes, oh yes! A Villagent, some thing or place we can all find and give or receive comfort in. Our 4 household weekly family zoom dinners have been a huge gift at this time. The little ones change from week to week. Our June baby will turn 1 year old next Tuesday. Although I can hardly wait for in person time, it is lovely that she recognizes us zooming with her smiles, giggles and waves.
Hoping to look you in the eyes and maybe even see your mischievous smile sooner than later.
Soon we will have spring, feelings of relief tempered with caution, and the joy of seeing each other in a format other than a Zoom rectangle! I’m SO ready!
Cynthia, couldn’t stop laughing after reading your post about malaprops. I missed our good governor’s speech and am so grateful that you brought his marvelous gaffe to my attention. Also loved your suggestions for getting through this ridiculous time of separation and giving in whatever ways we can. Through this mad election cycle, I have gotten in the habit, almost daily, of donating to various on the ground groups who were getting out the vote. I also wrote endless postcards and letters to potential voters around the country. Going forward – and keeping your excellent advice in mind – I plan to continue to donate, much more often than I did in the past, to local causes and businesses. Thank you so much, dearest human.
The most complex – and potentially wonderful – label: “human”!
Well done Mom! It is indeed a perfect word. And the advice is true and solid. Most people would worry over their loved ones sitting at home with nothing to do during a lock down, but not my mother…noooooo…it would seem she has as much if not more to do nowadays!
This from my amazing son who, as an EMT, is out there transporting and caring for Covid19 patients every day, in addition to responding to accidents, fires, heart attacks, sickly street people . . . AND training up-and-coming EMTS! I love you, Mike.
Excellent advice. My move to a small town from a big city re-taught me the value of getting involved with my community. Our community cannot afford the services of a city and it takes volunteers to do almost everything. At first I thought that was a drawback. Now I see it is a blessing. The strength of our community built over generations of getting things done together not only sustains the town, but it also sustains me… because the practice of being in a community teaches how to solve problems together, support each other, and appreciate the process just as much as the outcome without ever letting go of hope, even when faced with setbacks and frustrations. I worry most of us have forgotten what it is like to be villagent and hope I can help you promote that word!
You can give credit for the word to Governor Inslee – I just HEARD it and held onto it.
I so appreciate the work you’ve done in your small community (and in much larger arenas as well). It gives me hope to see the next generation learning and teaching the conciliation skills that are so necessary now. It’s not easy to maintain a village, because a village is made up of those pesky creatures called humans. But what a glorious teacher community can be, and, as you say, what a blessing! Keep at it, dear one. I’m watching – and blessing you – from afar.
Hello Cynthia –
How lovely to read your musings today. “Village” is not a term I hear much used these days; “town” seems more sterile. Today I am visiting Anne in her village of Patagonia. It’s a walking village, a sauntering place. It also has much of what you suggest – looking after one another in one’s community. Free food and free meals are provided for anyone who wants it – good produce mainly. We had some for breakfast.
I’m glad you are finding ways to connect with friends, like your Zoom Thanksgiving. It’s easier here in AZ because we can meet outdoors most any day of the year. Anne and I hosted my daughter’s family for Thanksgiving – outdoors mid-day 70 degrees and sunny, of course. I’m grateful to live here for this part of the year. We’ll walk along Sonoita Creek today, run by the Nature Conservancy.
My favorite malaprops come from Olive, my 6 year old granddaughter. If she eats something cold too fast she gets a “freezebrain”. The part of the lamp cord that goes into the wall is called a “plugger”.
Be well – stay warm!
I’ve been in Patagonia, walked northeast on one side of the short main street, and back southwest on the other side, and I remember being greeted and welcomed wherever I went, from the co-op to the art center, from the post office to the bird sanctuary. An ideal village indeed! I’m slightly jealous right now of your 70-degrees-and-sunny – but then, I also love our gray “Northwest sunshine”!
I love this, Cynthia! I wish I’d thought of it, and will certainly practice it. See you around the virtual and eventually the material village! I always think of you and send you good wishes as I go by the street to your house.
Another good thing to add to the list of things we can do in our sequestered time: send out good wishes and warm blessings as we drive past each other’s homes. Thank you.
This is an absolutely beautiful blog, Cynthia! Straight to the point of what these times are demanding of us. I, too, am being villagent.
As you always have been, Ann. You helped me understand what a “village” might be.
BRAVO, Cynthia. Thank you for sharing these thoughts. Villagent. One to remember and to say often. Much love to you.
Yes, and if you SAY it often, you may get to DEFINE it often – which is a very good thing for your community!