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, 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 . 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.]