Paul is winging his way around the world as I write. He has spent the last couple of weeks in Vietnam. This is the last trip in a series that have been long and frequent since Thanksgiving. Last year was very light for travel until late November and he’s been gone off and on since.
We need the man.
The kids and I are fine for about a week, but by Day 8, 9, 10 the wheels start to come off. We’d never gone this long and certainly never with as much travel preceding it. The elements of all four of us being not fully recovered from the flu and my sister, generally a source of help, having a newborn and needing support herself, had never been factored into the equation. This trip was a doozy in so many ways.
But we’ve made it. And we couldn’t have without my mom, my sister, Torey, and my brother-in-law, David, my friend Sara and her husband, Rob, took all the kids for an overnight so I could go to a retreat with my writer’s group, Krista took Lydia for a day, Dan made us a delicious meal, Sherry who kept calling to check in, never mind the chaos of her own home at the moment and my other friend, Sheri, who tried to take Christopher for a sleep over before sickness intervened but, later, let me take two of her boys on a day where she needed help and we desperately needed company. Thank you all.
The past year or so I have been ruminating on the subject of community, how and what it can look like. I guess what I’ve been making up is that you have to save up your need of others for crisis, like it’s a bank account that you’d better be careful not to overdraw so that there’s something there in an emergency. Of course, most of us don’t want to be draining and taking in relationships, but how do you ration your needs? And why look at kindness from others as a commodity, as if it’s a thing that you are in control of when it’s really a wondrous gift you get to receive.
A friend of mine who has a few years and a lot more wisdom on me described “bearing each other’s burdens” like the Bible talks about, in a new way. I had always seen in as a sort of one to one exchange and I have experienced it that way too, in prayer. There have been times where I can feel a person’s pain and I carry that person with me throughout the day, praying and grieving for them. My friend said she sees carrying each other’s burdens as all of us together holding on to this big tarp or carpet. Everyone is holding it and walking together. I don’t know if my friend, Kris, said this, but now when I picture it, I see weary people being pitched into the center and carried for a while, all of us our sharing the load.
That might not be the way it is, but it resonates with me. I guess what I’m figuring out is that if someone taps me on the shoulder and gestures that it’s my turn to be carried I want to scramble up without arguing why I shouldn’t get the ride, why I don’t need or deserve it. I’m also beginning to understand that I don’t have to worry so much about exactly how I am going to hold on to the tarp when it’s my turn to carry. I am beginning to believe that the onus on me is to commit to love, to lean in to listen and to quickly obey when I’m told what to do – whether it’s praying for someone, making a meal, writing a card, sending money or just picking up the phone and calling a friend.
Yesterday, Dan, a friend and fellow sufferer of insomnia e-mailed me the offer of a meal, “Cooking is the way I know to make life better.” He called later to figure out the details and I felt such a rush of gratitude knowing that he understood my sleeplessness, the offer of the meal was secondary. Last night we met at my sister’s (we are all friends) and ate Dan’s delicious meal. I love sitting around the table with family and friends enjoying a good meal and the peace and joy that can come when we are all together.
I guess I want to look at community like a good meal with friends. Last night I didn’t buy the groceries, nor prepare the meal. I didn’t set the table and, other than clearing a few things, I didn’t even clean up. Despite all this, I was given a full place at the table. I was warmly welcomed and, when I lifted it, my plate was filled.