Sunday, August 23, 2009

Amazing Things

I've been thinking a lot about community, friendship, love, intimacy, blah blah blah.

When I was in Chicago last fall, my friends and I were seated at the bar of a tapas restaurant having dinner and drinks when a couple who were waiting for a table upstairs asked if they could squeeze on the end of our banquette while they were waiting. They were a gorgeous couple - both startlingly attractive, beautifully dressed, and clearly smitten with each other. Of course we welcomed them to our little space and offered them some of our olives while they waited. We chatted with them about Chicago and DC as they were natives and we were not, and they told us they were out to celebrate his birthday. We sang to him. He got up to either go to the bar or the restroom, I don't remember, when she said, "I just want to thank you all for being so nice to us - I've had cancer and this is the first night I've gone out with a wig on. I've been terrified about it." Almost completely in unison we all said, "You're gorgeous". We all immediately loved her for this disclosure and felt like we'd known her forever. There were hugs and kisses all around when their table was ready and they left us.

An elder of the church is available after the worship service if anyone needs/wants private one-on-one prayer. I went up to pray for my co-worker when we thought her husband was actively dying, and the elder was a woman I'd known casually for years and always really liked though didn't know well. I told her what was going on and we quietly prayed together. When she closed the prayer, I thanked her and as I was getting up said, "How are you?". She burst into tears - I mean full on nose running messy crying. She was completely overwhelmed by her busy life and was just needing someone to be nice to her that didn't want something from her. We prayed for her, and now when I see her and we touch base it feels like it's on a totally different level.

This week I was lucky enough to spend a few days at the beach in Delaware as a last-minute mini-vacation. I wasn't loving the idea of this crowded, public beach after having been spoiled by the Cluster Duck and the serenity therein but it's really close (and the CD was occupied). I wasn't on the beach for more than 45 minutes when there were chatters among the crowd that indicated something was going on in the water. Dolphins, I thought. Nice, but no big deal. When what people were talking about came in to view it was evident it was no dolphin, but a whale having lunch a few hundred yards off the shore. It swam back and forth, jumped out of the water, and generally did its whale thing. It was, as people often say, completely magical. But what struck me as even more spiritual was the hundreds of people along the beach who had stopped and were experiencing this amazing thing together. Hearing total strangers around me say "I've never seen anything like that in my life" was an immediate connection to my little brain that was thinking the same thing.

You can't force community or intimacy, it happens organically when you open yourself to people around you in a genuine way. At some point I'm thinking you have to take a chance and put yourself out there and hope that the person/people who are there either by choice or by luck are willing and/or able to connect with you and catch you. Amazing shared experiences aren't always whales, sometimes it's tears or dumb jokes or compassion or empathy. So why isn't this easy?

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