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Shipwrecked: 3) Create a Covenant

You've been shipwrecked on a deserted island. Realizing you'll be here for an indefinite amount of time, you've assessed your resources, and figured out how you can repurpose some of them to help you in this new life. Now what?

Oh yeah. Those people living with you.

Whenever one is starting a new community, whether it is in the London tubes during the Blitz or a deserted island, or a church, or a family that is now quarantined together, it is good to articulate the expectations of the group members, and come to a shared set of agreements.

In Unitarian Universalism, we often refer to this as a covenant, a set of promises the group commits to. They have a simple starting exercise that I have repeatedly found helpful:

Give each member of the community an index card and a pen. On one side, each person writes three things they are willing to promise the rest of the group. On the other side, three promises they would like from the group.

After everyone has done that, first discuss the promises everyone is willing to make. Then, the promises wanted. Then, you get down to writing your covenant. Were there items on multiple cards? Things that everyone agrees with? Write them down. They can be lofty or pragmatic. Promises about treating each other with respect ... and a promise that everyone will take turns emptying and refilling the ice cube trays, and under no circumstances is it okay to empty a tray and not refill it.

Maybe that's just my family - but hey, it's important to us. Every household has their own "ice cubes."

Once you have your list, then address the inevitable: what happens when you break the covenant. Because you will, that's just how human community works. How will you come back into covenant?

Once your covenant is agreed upon, write it up, and put it somewhere prominent. It doesn't need to be elegant. The refrigerator is fine. Someplace where everyone can see it, and where you can revisit it. Perhaps some things will be modified, while other things will need to be added. We don't know what life will be like 2 months from now. Things change.

Here's the thing: everyone has expectations. The problem is when it is assumed that everyone knows and agrees with the expectations. (They don't.) My colleague, Rev. Brian Ferguson, puts it succinctly: "Unarticulated expectations are premeditated resentment."

And you don't need resentment growing on your island.

Tomorrow: Shipwrecked: 4) Create a Routine


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