“First house and wife and an ox for the plough.”
Hesiod, Works and Days

I think I am not alone in feeling unsettled these days. I experience a subtle, low-grade but constant stress, a sense of foreboding that tends toward fear. Where are things going in our nation and our communities, and what does it mean for me and my loved ones?

While remaining vigilant and appropriately engaged—and this can hard to do without losing one’s peace—I need to maintain an appropriate focus on the simple matters of my direct responsibility.

I think of a great Roman general who just kept working in his household even while there was upheaval in Rome. He knew that for now there was nothing he could do in the political sphere. So he simply continued to focus on the matters at hand. If the moment were to come when he could and should step into the fray, he would be ready. Regardless, there was always much to demand his attention. At home.

Focusing on the key human relationships in our life is not a sideshow. For most of us, it is the main way that each day we become the person we should be, and that we serve the broader common good.

It is a great consolation to me to remember a simple truth. If we are intentional and know what we are about, relationships can thrive in most any circumstances. Indeed, hardship is often precisely the kiln that forges relationships of the richest kind.

There is no suffering that is not an opportunity to grow in relationship. This is an astounding gift. And it should remind us that relationships grow when they are given priority, and when they are rooted in moral character, and what endures. These are certain and unchanging things.

Uncertain and changing times can serve to highlight this incomparable gift.

Hesiod (8th century B.C.) was a Greek contemporary of Homer, and likewise an epic poet. His Works and Days sketches the year-round work on a homestead.

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