When I lived in England, I quickly learned that upon entering a home, I would be offered a cup of tea. It took me longer to appreciate the fullness of the ritual. My British peers rather enjoyed schooling an uncouth American, and one day they explained that the custom required me to accept the offer. “But what,” I asked, “if I don’t want the tea?”
My friends assured me, “You don’t have to drink it. They don’t mind tipping it out later.”
As I traveled the country and visited many homes, I began to understand. The tea wasn’t about the contents of the cup. It was about the space of warmth and connection the tea created. As the water boils, the tea steeps, and the warm cup is held, there is space for conversation to find its footing. The ritual eases the transition of arrival. By the time the cups are empty, or alternatively, that the tea has gone cold to be tipped out, the visitor is engaged, the room is comfortable, the relationships have grown.
Cohousing makes space for conversation too. The person making common dinner has space to chat when someone pauses near the kitchn with a glass of wine. As one neighbor weeds, another stops for conversation. A borrowed tool comes with an hour of discussion on its use and the project it is being used for. The culture of community allows for these small connections that build over time to a rich social network, so vital for human happiness.
I wonder as we come out of pandemic distancing, will we need to be more conscious of creating space for the transitions. What rituals will help us find our way in new configurations of community? Fortunately, we are creative and resilient. I suspect anything that slows us down a bit will do the trick.
Tags: Connecting, culture, ritual