Friday, August 8, 2008

Give & Take

This weekend some of my friends are coming to my house. This isn’t a terribly unusual occurrence, as I generally try to hold some sort of event at my house about once a month to ensure that people have a chance to get/stay connected. However, most weekends my main goal is to serve. I buy some beer (or make some jello shots!), cook some food (mmmm, remember chocolate tasting, anyone?), clean the house, light a few candles, and silently pray that throwing a party actually counts as service. I know it seems like a silly thing – throwing a party = community service? – but my heart really wants to serve.

It seems like it’s so hard to stay connected in our twenties and thirties as we venture off into marriages and parenthood and careers – we have condos and houses; lawns to mow and bills to pay; obligations to fill on Saturday mornings and Chinese take-out to eat in front of the television on Saturday nights because our friends are out getting their own condos and lawns and bills to deal with. It’s just a hard phase of life. I don’t know if this is something particular to my generation or if it’s the way it’s always been. I have no idea, and I suppose it doesn’t really matter. It’s the way it is now so that’s what we have to deal with.

As you may have noticed, I adore the idea of community. I think it is beautiful to see what can happen when enough people get and stay connected and start to take responsibility for each other’s well being. One of my friends brought me a Frankenstein balloon after my first miscarriage because she wanted to love me. Friends from my community helped me paint Lisey’s house and Bev’s house before they really knew either one of them as an act of love to me and to invite them into the club. We help each other move, we help each other grieve, and we help each other determine whether or not the hamburgers are cooked to an edible temperature. We grow plants for each other if, say, one of us leaves on a ship for months at a time. I have a friend who I know is lonely and I make a conscious effort to make sure s/he has a place to be when I know s/he might not otherwise. You build community and these things just happen. When you get and stay connected you start to be unable to just let your friends suffer or to let them deal with stuff on their own. You have to paint their houses and bring them Frankenstein balloons and invite them into everything you can because you can’t bear not to. That’s what community does.

So to me, throwing a party every month and trying to get/keep people connected is service because it helps them be part of a community that loves them, and I want for all of them to be loved. In my little world, sometimes service means giving away blankets; sometimes it means buying really good beer. *shrugs shoulders* I can’t justify it to you, I can just tell you that it is what my heart says to do and I believe it is good. Sometimes god blesses the open spirit and sometimes god blesses the open tap (or the open fridge, or the open grill, or the open container of Rice Krispie treats… you get the picture). Don’t get me wrong; I love to party. But more than that I love seeing a connection getting made and seeing someone learn to love or be loved.

Back to the point of this: oftentimes there will be people at my house on a weekend because I want to love them and serve them. This weekend 6 of my friends are coming to my house to serve me.

As you may have heard, my living room is in a rather sad state of disrepair. Lisey has arranged a bit of a sanding party in hopes that my plight of despair might be over relatively soon. The longer I think about my living room, the more it makes me remember how my high school English teacher made such a big deal about how the house in “The Fall of the House of Usher” was dilapidated!!! as though we’d all somehow made it to high school without knowing what dilapidated meant – he seemed to think he was talking to illiterates (and really, isn’t ‘dilapidated’ kind of a weak analogy for ‘house that ripped in half and sank into the bog’?). Anyways, equating one’s living room with something Poe wrote is generally a bad sign, and Lisey jumped right up and decided to do something about it. See what I mean about community?

Now I am not a girl who generally likes to be on the receiving end of the whole service thing. It makes me uncomfortable – I always feel like I should be doing something more or that I owe whoever helped me big time or that I’m quite pathetic for needing help in the first place. Of course I never think the people that I serve are pathetic or owe me big time or whatever else, but me? Well, that’s different. Don’t ask me why, but it is. I’m not supposed to need everyone to sand my stupid living room.

Anyway, I have been anticipating my friends coming over to help me this weekend and I realized that I don’t feel any anxiety or guilt about it whatsoever. None. I don’t feel bad for needing their help. I don’t feel bad for taking up their time. I don’t feel bad for making them work. I don’t feel bad at all. I just feel immensely grateful to be a part of a group of people who value me that much.

I think I am learning the value of being able to take as well as give. I think I am learning how to let people love me. And I think this is a good thing.

I have no idea how this happened, but I kind of like it. It is nice not to feel immense guilt every time someone wants to love you. I don’t know if it is the quiet acceptance of these people as family or the extraordinarily humbling past year that I’ve barely survived. I don’t know what it is, but it feels great. It feels freeing. It feels like I belong somewhere.

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