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The Smile of the Mona Gloria

The cutting board, the yardstick, the stacks—in all, it was 33 lovingly packaged boxes. On this May, 2019 day, she took the greatest pride in assembling the original set of THE HUMAN JOURNEY®’s Conductor Kits, now used in an updated form in institutional and public trainings to help families cultivate belonging and meaning in the heart of change.

Perhaps it was such pride that put a smile more beatific than any I’ve ever seen on Gloria’s face.

No matter my pushing, Gloria refuses the title of Production Manager, preferring Production Assistant, even though it often seems she was born to make the physical universe work. Yet the eight person-hours of measuring, folding, assembling, and tying up of the THJ® boxes with the decks, board, and implements on this particular day are only an external sign of what she’s done for THE HUMAN JOURNEY®.

Gloria’s real title is that of godmother to THE HUMAN JOURNEY®. When, in 2013, I started putting together the point of view that would later underpin THJ®, Gloria was the one I talked it all over with. Back then, I was looking for the model I could best believe in for how people told the story of difficult times in their lives—an explanatory framework that gave meaning to the hard times, more than simply an opportunity to rehearse a story one has already told a thousand times. A framework that could be a journey of discovery both for the person as they told their story and for those who received it.

For some months, we talked through “narrative frameworks,” as I then called them, starting with a crucial dinner at the Tong’s Tiki Hut restaurant near her home. I was ranking and testing a catalog I had formed of them. You may recognize the one whose handle was “I’m right and he’s an idiot (right?)” (This was the self-justification narrative, one you’ll recognize if you’ve ever listened to a friend in pain shortly after a breakup.) 

Another was what I’ve viewed as the a-bit-too-facile framework that somehow hard times are paired with their redemptive elements (the “silver lining framework”). Gloria thought about it and added two more, including the notion that hard experiences could be regarded as experiments in living, possibly even experiments that a higher power might be conducting with human beings as subjects.

In the end, the one that made the most sense, and later became THE HUMAN JOURNEY®’s vehicle of both personal and communal healing in times of impending loss, or other opportunity for a group to grow in the face of change, was none of these. (Ask if you’re curious, or for directions to the Tiki Hut.)

Nowadays, THE HUMAN JOURNEY® Conductor’s Kits are no longer in cardboard boxes, held together with a colored bow. They’re packaged in solid tin boxes, nested tight inside with the game boards, wooden Meeples implements, and the three THJ® decks. One THJ® Conductor trainee recently described the process of opening her box as being like a “sacred ritual.”

So was the putting them together for a dear friend of the business. With gratitude for all Gloria has brought to THE HUMAN JOURNEY® and for her beatific smile!