Where tenderness comes in

July 7, 2020 | By Jen Higgins-Newman, BHFH Program Manager 

It has been nearly four months since the day we decided to close our doors to the public here at Beacon Hill Friends House. As the days go on, our community is having conversations about how we continue to live together well during this time. As we think through the policies, protocols, and changes to rituals that will help keep us safe as Boston begins to open up, we are also asking the question, “how do we thrive?”

The answer to this is nontrivial. We’re living through a difficult time. It is also a joyous time to be in community. We live our daily lives somewhere in the balance of those things. 

Earlier in the pandemic, I read Pema Chödrön’s book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. I want to share part of this book with you, which has felt true to me and also healing for me: 

“Nevertheless, when the bottom falls out and we can’t find anything to grasp, it hurts a lot … This is where tenderness comes in. When things are shaky and nothing is working, we might realize that we are on the verge of something. We might realize that this is a very vulnerable and tender place, and that tenderness can go either way. We can shut down and feel resentful or we can touch on that throbbing quality. There is definitely something tender and throbbing about groundlessness …

This falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” 

— Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

These words are striking a chord for me right now. Things have been shaky, and sometimes it feels as though nothing is working. It can be painful to make room for grief, relief, misery, and joy. We must remember the importance of tenderness — that this is the process required for healing, and that we can be tender to ourselves and others as we go through this together. 

In Light and community, 


Photo: This is only a small part of our growing garden on the Friends House back deck. You can see more during our virtual summer open house this Saturday!