Eclipse Reflections: Creating Oooooh and Awe Experiences
Greg Nelson, used with permission
Wow. Five hours ago I experienced eclipse totality (this is being written on Monday). I am still basking in the glow of an awe-inducing experience. I’m on a natural high from this once-in-a-lifetime event.* It lived up to all the hype…and it was free. No one collected a single cent (except of course for the t-shirts, magnets, commemorative glass I purchased – but that’s me getting eclipse-induced mania).
I live across the street from beautiful Bush Park in Salem, OR. Smack dab in the path of totality. Pre-eclipse, the city advertised that people could come and camp out for up to two nights prior to the eclipse. The city staff did a great job of welcoming people. Take note how they did it: Signs were posted to make the basic rules known, water was provided, bathrooms were strategically located with directions on where to find them, and a “welcome center” was placed in the middle of the action giving visitors plenty of information. Visitors felt like they belonged.
I’ll admit initially that I wasn’t too keen on the idea of having people sleep in “my” park. But by Sunday night I was amazed at the sight of tents pitched throughout the park, meeting nice people, and well, I started to feel the love. By Monday morning with crystal clear blue skies buoying us, my 1,200 new best friends were waiting for the main event to begin.
For those two hours of the eclipse we were all of one accord. No one knew or cared or asked who was a Republican, Democrat, independent, conservative, liberal. We met people from all over the United States, from Japan, the Netherlands, and a honeymooning couple from Australia. We were all part of the human family. It was pure emotion that took over during the moment of totality with tears and collective whoops and hollers and cheers for the moon making its way between us and the sun. And the operative word for the day was…“Wow.”
Shortly after the event, we were asked by a researcher from UC Berkeley to fill out a survey on our feelings about “awe.” And I wish I could have sung that old hymn in response:
Oh Lord my God
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds
Thy hands have made
I see the stars
I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout
The universe displayed
The total eclipse may have been one of those incredible and rare life experiences. You certainly can’t replicate the eclipse but you can take note on how you can give people the chance to experience awe in your own setting.1. By intentionally welcoming them and 2. By giving them a communal experience – with a moment or two of awe – that they can carry with them long after they leave your building.
Awe. It’s a good thing. Let’s let people experience it more than once or twice in a lifetime.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann (pronounced “CC Delv Sherman,” yes, really) is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past fifteen years, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over three million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. *She may be chasing the 2024 total eclipse to Dayton, Ohio. She was the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. She is available to consult with churches. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity.
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