By Nancy L. Johnston author of Disentangle: When You’ve Lost Your Self in Someone Else

I was writing an email to a friend today and found myself saying about our family, “We are all well and choose to not travel to support The Great Effort.” I like this phrase – The Great Effort. Yes, that’s what we are being asked to do and what will save us: The Great Effort.

Each word in this phrase is important. Whether we are working on our health, a home project, parenting, our primary relationship(s), or a community need, it usually takes “a great effort” to reach our goals. 

“Effort” is not necessarily a state we run toward. When I explain to people that the changes they want to make for themselves will involve work, many are sorry to hear that. We want to believe that once we have learned something new, we can naturally put it to action without looking back. Those of us in recovery from addictions know well that is not so. We know that “effort” means we will show up daily with our intentions, new skills, new knowledge, and practice the changes we are making. It is work to remember to do all of these things, and it is work to practice them when we easily can slip into our usual ways. Effort is needed.

“Great” speaks to both the extent to which I, as an individual, need to expend my energies toward the goal and to the extent to which collective movement toward the goal is imperative. When an individual is in recovery from addiction, consistent and clear support from family and friends as well as changes in their behaviors make a world of difference in fostering recovery for all. “Great” means that when I don’t want to do something that will make a positive difference for the larger world, I go ahead and do it. “Great” means that we are all in this together and what I choose has an effect that ripples out and out and out.

“The” highlights the importance of this Great Effort. It is “The Great Effort” needed to stop the spread of this pandemic and to give us safe spaces to restore ourselves, our communities, and our world. This is possible and quite likely with great effort on the part of each of us together.

Just days before the killing frost that took my COVID garden, I gathered this box of flowers, herbs, and vegetables to give to a friend. Each of these varieties grew through the great, collective effort of the sun, soil, and water. They grew through my faithfulness in their care, through advice I was given from others about growing them, and through their natural ability to share their garden beds with each other so they all grew well and strong – and quite beautifully!

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