Something to Think about for our Young People:
Last week, we thought about our unique and special gifts. Maybe you noticed the unique and special gifts of the people around you. Maybe even those people that you have a hard time liking. Maybe it helps changed you. Maybe it helped you to become more accepting of others knowing that everyone is Special in some way (even if we can’t see it at the time).
But accepting others is just the beginning.
What happens when we bring all of these unique and special gifts together? What happens when we accept others into our playtime or gym time or at our lunch table or study table? We get to know one another even better. We discover even more specialness about one another. What they love. Even better: what they are afraid of. We learn to not just accept but to be kind. We start to see that people need our help and we need their help.
We discover that we are all part of a divine family. Not separate. Not us versus them. Not bad people and good people, but people. Happy sometimes. Scared at other times. Nice sometimes. Mean at other times (usually because we’re scared of something).
And when we bring ourselves and our special gifts together…we can do Great Things Together.
This Week: See if you can see how your gifts become even more beautiful when gathered together with others. Notice it at music practice. At sports practices. At play. At study. At school. At home. At church and everywhere. Notice how people work together to make things work. Notice where people are doing extra wonderful things…together.
I love to hear what people plan for a new year. There usually seems to be a collective theme to each year. A something that’s the thing most people seem to be bringing to the forefront. This is why I love new year “whatever you want to call them”. Resolutions. Commitments. Intentions. Goals. Hopes. Dreams. Plans.
I’ve noticed the theme this year’s collective theme is…Friends. It seems that we have gotten out of the habit of of cultivating friendships. Perhaps that makes it even harder to be “friendly”, if we aren’t practicing friendships. It seems we’ve gotten in a habit of home over these past few years and it seems we’re (collectively) realizing: this might not be so good.
Many people are planning to be more social. To get out more. To visit. To have small parties. Some have those concrete, measurable goals and have set dates.
It’s easy to think it’s just the social people who are missing friends and socializing. But I don’t think this is it. It seems even the most introverted/home body personality types are realizing they need to reach out. And to get out. To cultivate friends and perhaps…be more “friendly”. And because the “home habit” is so strong, they need to make it a commitment. A New Year Resolution.
Of note: being home is fine. An unhealthy habit of home is not. Choosing to be home is okay. Being home and developing “loneliness” is not. And collectively…we are lonely.
We are lonely and we’ve lost some of our social skills. Even the most extroverted/outgoing personality types. Socializing is a skill and it takes practice. Notice the ten commandments: social rules. Most sacred texts offer some sort of social rules. Rules that take learning and practice. Stories that help us be better people with and for one another. There are also all those subtle social cues…social graces, dress “codes”, interpreting body language, interpreting facial expressions (extra challenging with a mask), etc.
We’re out of practice. It’s been nice being home, but it’s also nice to get out. To show up. I’ve been pondering the last many months whether our “great work” isn’t this big giant special thing, but simply showing up where we’re needed with our passions and our gifts. In just small ways: showing up to life and one other and our work and our Work. It’s so easy to not show up and Covid made it even easier. For a while, we were supposed to stay home. That’s easy. Then it got easy (and we over-worried): “Is that a cough or a sneeze or a sore throat? I should stay home.” And it got comfortable.
So we stayed home and we got lonely. Collectively, we’re lonely. And for 2023, we’ve realized it and we’re planning to reach out and be more social and friendly.
Friendship. It’s important. Loneliness is endemic right now. It’s hard to be lonely with friends. Friendship is Good. Friendship can be a sacred work. Showing up to our friends and friendship.
Often friendship is our first relationship with Jesus. We’re taught: you’ve got a friend in Jesus. We get to know Jesus. He’s a friend who’s easy to talk to. He loves us just exactly as we are. Like a friend. It’s familiar for kids to think of Jesus as a friend. Comforting.
Eventually, our relationship with Jesus grows. As we grow. We’re told we develop a more grown up relationship with Jesus. He becomes our teacher. Maybe a teacher of all those social skills we perhaps have discovered we need to sharpen up this year. How to be with one another and how to be in this world. He becomes our Savior. Our God. Our Path. A Way.
We outgrow the “friend” part, as we become more mature. Our relationship becomes more mature. Our relationships become more mature. We’re grown ups. With full, busy lives to live.
I’m sure many of us have, or are in, stages of life where we’re “too busy” for friends. We think that friends are a luxury item in life. That having friends is “too hard” and “too much”. We’ve all been overwhelmed by our obligations and some of those obligations are people. We think we can be busy and our friendships will wait for us to be less busy. Maybe they do. Maybe they don’t. Maybe we’re never less busy.
I’m not sure that there much more sacred in this life than being there for one another. I’m not sure there is any more sacred act in this life than in being friends. PAUSE.
We teach our kids that friendship is the most important thing. That they need friends. That friends are how they will best accomplish things. It’s in all our stories. Especially our young people stories…
In Charlotte’s Web, when Charlotte explains why she helped to save Wilbur’s life, she says: “You have been my friend, that in itself is a tremendous thing.” In all the most wonderful stories and quests, no one does it alone. Frodo has Sam. Harry Potter has Ron and Hermione. Jesus has his friends on his journey. It’s when we’re alone that we most often get lost or stray. Friends help us on our quests and in the journey of life. Friends help us to stay on the path. Friends help us to think outside our box, to question, to challenge us, and friends support us. And we…reciprocate.
The wonderful thing about friendship is there is a sense of equality. Give and take. Love in return for love. The choice to be with someone. Friendship is pretty sacred. Perhaps there’s not much more holy than friendship. Perhaps the greatest work we can do is to show up for our friendships.
Individually, to set those dates to be with one another. To check in on one another. To help one another out of isolation and through burdens. To help one another realizing the joys of this life. There’s not much more wonderful than being together and doing good work.
Which brings us to friendship as a Sacred Act. Connection and union to one another and to something Bigger. Perhaps part of our gathering each week is not just those big: learn from Teacher Jesus, believe in Savior Jesus, Walk the path of justice and work for Jesus, but to be friendly. To be a friend like Jesus. To reconnect to that childlike relationship with Jesus and Grace and one another. To become partners for one another on the Path.
To welcome new members as friends. To stay together as friends. To lay out the welcome mat of friendship and to be deeply, sacredly friendly toward one another and everyone.
So that we are not alone, here and everywhere. So that we are supported and supporting. So that we are kind. So that we practice focusing on the gifts and the most important things. So that we know in the middle of life, not just when the scary things wake us up, but in all times to remember that it is not the stuff that makes us happy or brings us joy, but it is our Sacred Friendships of choosing to be present with one another.
Let us answer the Sacred Call to be present with one another.