I remember well being 13 and telling my teacher that the prayer we did at lunch was dumb, in my own 13 year old way.

The prayer was full of words that we didn’t know or didn’t use in 20th century English and some words that she couldn’t explain to us when we asked her.

We mumbled through it to get it over with, to appease her and get to lunch.

And I was 13 and tired of it.  We had other options.  The previous week, the substitute teacher asked us instead if anyone had any intentions, anything in our lives we wanted to pray for.  We were shocked.  And delighted.

And in saying things out loud we learned something about each person brave enough to say a few words.  Oh, goodness, her mother is sick.  I didn’t know that.  Oh, his grandparents are coming and he’s excited.  I’d be excited too.

We grew in affection for each other and for life.  Our senses came alive, even with this new prayer cutting into our lunch an extra minute or two.

But then that substitute teacher left and there we were back in the old habit that was deadening our senses.

I definitely do not have a very good poker face.  My eyes get all excited when I’m excited, and my eyes also show surprise at how foolish we as a group can be.  And my ‘surprise eyes’ might have been mixed with a heavy dose of annoyance that morning before lunch as our regular teacher screamed at me for disrespecting the deadening prayer that she could never explain to us what it was about.  “How dare you offend, God!”

I was 13.  Standing there all alone.  I knew God didn’t care but I did worry this teacher I angered just might walk across the room and slap me.  The older kids had teased us on the bus that she had done similar things before like that, that there were dents in the lockers from her throwing desks and chairs and even kids when she was mad.  That’s what the older kids told us.  None of us wanted to find out….

Such a thing as denting a locker with a kid’s head/desk of course was all acceptable back then, until a consensus of people wondering about it in a circle/conversation decided that harming children was wrong, that children are indeed human.  (In the ancient world, children weren’t considered human until they could be married off, at about age 13 or 14.  And you’d think we as humans have matured much since the ancient world…but….)

But even as I worried that she might slap me, I could tell she also knew I was right this time.

It’s not about being right, I don’t think.  But it is about knowing possibilities — now we had two with the deadening-prayer and the communal-intention-prayer.  And in any process that’s going to work long-term, the community together would be wise to hash it out together, explore options, invent new ones, evaluate what might be best.  Together.

Even at 13 we were being invited into the ways of adults, of maturity, of — that big new word — “leadership.”  Heck, in the ancient world, some of us would have been married already!

Sometimes we need to take a stand — even when we might feel like we are standing there all alone and even naked to our ordinary protections — when the deadening no longer serves us or most of the community.


There’s something wildly helpful about a circle of friends.  We can share ideas, ask for support, receive support, wonder about the best courses of action, share our gifts, enjoy life together.

So many goodnesses have sprung out of the circles we’ve hosted in our 13 years.  I’ve shared many of them the past few days.  One I haven’t yet highlighted is the gift of Richard Bollman, SJ’s book that has been an invitation to a deeper life for so many.  Who knew that Richard putting together a few words each morning and then a community hearing these words and appreciating them would yield this beautiful book and more fulfilling lives for us all!

Such richness invites me to wonder what is next…?

In our new space, we are excited to announce some new circles and revive some previous ones.  Hope you’ll join us and we can then all discover together what might be possible.  We don’t present solutions in our circles, we wonder about things together, figure out what’s right for each one of us, in our own unique ways.

Come learn more at tomorrow’s Open House…
Saturday, Sept 9
2 – 4 pm EDT
791 E McMillan St, Cincinnati, OH 45206

(parking ideas below)

To figure out what’s right for us…seems like a very important thing for a 13-year-old, whether a human or an organization like ours or the inner 13-year-old within each one of us who longs for choices, possibilities, newness.  Such is a healthy inner revolution.

Happy 13th!

Brian Shircliff

Parking ideas…we have a lot with three ADA spots next to our building and shared with Fireside Pizza and a number of other restaurants and organizations and Five Points Alley, and with all the festivities — especially the Queen of the Hills Street Festival — in Walnut Hills tomorrow, parking could be at a premium.  Consider on-street parking on Copley, Wayne, Morgan, or Concord Streets on the same side as us…and a short walk then to our new space!  Or arrive early and take in some of the festival and then wander over to our space for cake!!! CAKE!!!!!!!


This watercolor was donated to VITALITY a few years back and would love a new home – consider making a donation for it at tomorrow’s Open House!  I believe the artist is Mel Carter and was told the value is about $400.