From Henri Nouwen’s Gracias:
“More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence.
Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress.
But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.”
I too am trying to listen to the rhythm of life, the rhythm of this sunscreen smelling summer. Neighbors chat more. Kids gather in our side yard to play kickball. My three year old’s hair continually smells like beach and as I read a naptime story, I can’t stop sniffing his golden bowlcut.
Every day I take an orange double stroller, three sippy cups and walk the streets of South Haven, chatting with those walking their dog. Only 6000 people live here in the Winter and we get to know each other’s faces behind the blue wire carts at WalMart. Faces become familiar after ten years and I’m pretty sure I live surrounded by 6000 best friends.
I’ve become one of those annoying Midwestern girls who think everyone want to chat with her. I compliment the girl who has the lovely blond braid across her forehead in the crafting aisle. She looks at me strange. Chicago, I think.
People fascinate me and I want to sit across from the old man who sits at the dock gazing at the tall ship, the woman collecting blueberries at Barden’s Market with the wide brimmed hat, the child with the striped bathing suit digging the sand castle. I want to hear all their stories and collect them like the sea glass.
But, I’ve got this other side too and I tend to pendulum swing unmercifully from one to the other.
I’m a bit of a word addict. I feast off of words…building towers of them…reading them. Diagramming sentences was my favorite school sport. I tend to think that if it is not scrawled down, that it did not truly exist or did not have as much meaning. The problem is, I become an observer, and not truly present in the moment…not present to the authentic, skin-wearing God-designed person here and now. I hear this same desire in Nouwen’s quote.
But I know that I know that I know…love should never be groveling for time at the bottom of the list.
This summer, how are you staying present to the people in your life?
Today I’m crazy thankful:
for my prayer clinic friends
for God’s Voice continually speaking
for digging holes in the sand
the promise of a day at the water’s edge with a friend
a husband who listens and listens and shares and shares
baby tomatoes ripening in a line
a little boy’s birthday party and his unabashed squeals
sharing this with: