Friday, September 7, 2012

Table for Two

Who would you choose, dead or alive, to sit down with for dinner? A friend asked me this today. I chose to think of someone dead, because if someone is alive and I really want to have dinner this person, I figure I can make that happen. If someone is dead, however, well let’s give it a shot. So, I chose to focus on a dead person. Then I thought, why dead? And why an Einstein or Mother Teresa? Why not my Pop or Oldmom or Grandma Wadley? Why Freud or Hitler or Jesus and not the kindergarten teacher who passed away unexpectedly when my kids were in elementary?

And this is what I came to.

Famous or not, dead or not, everyone has something from which I can learn. Everyone has some perspective, some word, some thought, that in some way can contribute to my world. Most people surround themselves with like-minded souls. I never understand this. First, then who would there be to convert? Second, if I surround myself with those who are much like me then from whom would I truly learn?

I have a friend who stands at the other end of the spectrum on most every life issue. I have found him very irritating at times. I have found him very irritating many times. I cannot believe the words, sometimes, that come out of his mouth. He puts down huge groups of individuals. He freely expresses his disdain for those not like him. I don’t understand. I just cannot comprehend his thinking at all. And yet, on a personal level, I have never found him anything but kind. I know that should I ever need anything at all, he would be at my door. If I am ever verbally attacked by others, they are wrong, I am right. He has my back. I know this. I would welcome dinner with this friend. I would welcome it any time.

I have another friend. He is all about peace and love and compassion. He is all about what is best for humanity. He is all about living in a kind and gentle way. He is much like myself. He does much work for the benefit of society. He does good work. He helps those who cannot help themselves. We would seem a very nice fit, but on an individual level, I find him arrogant. I find him a bit of an ass. This disturbs me as I see him much as I see myself. We are much alike. We have chosen the same profession. We each value family and education and environmental consciousness. We like to travel. We enjoy an afternoon at the beach, a good book, a glass of wine. It is not difficult to understand this friend, as we are the same point on the continuum. We take up the same dot. And, yet, he finds me disturbing to the point that we are no longer friends. It was something I said. It was inappropriate, perhaps, but I said it. I miss the friendship. He is funny and smart and kind. I miss the conversation. I would welcome the opportunity to sit for dinner. I would welcome it, and most likely, I know, we would order the same dish.

I am learning from both of these friends.

I don’t think one has to be a Hemingway or Fitzgerald or Poe to have interesting things to say. I could learn from my friend’s five-year-old as much as I could learn from a Maya Angelou or Anne Lamott or Anna Quindlen. Let me sit for a second with the man I know who is living from his car. Let me sit with him and learn what inspires him to go to class each day even when he cannot go to dinner. Or maybe it is because he cannot go to dinner that he goes to class. Let me sit with the twenty-year-old who is the only living family for his dying father. Let me sit with him and learn what drives him to continue his education when hospice is his life. Let me sit with the teenager who was sexually molested by her father, the same father who told her he loved her and read her bedtime stories each night. I can learn. I can learn something from each person I meet, from each path I cross. No matter how different our values, our lives, may seem, no matter how uncomfortable I may feel, there is something I can take from each one of these encounters. There is something I can learn.

Who would I choose, given the choice, to have dinner with, dead or alive? I would choose you. I would choose you. Even though I think I may know everything about you, there is always something to learn, there is always something to know.

And what about you? Would you sit with me? You may think you know me. You may think me an open book. You know that I write, that I teach, yes, but you have no idea what is inside this head. You have no idea. Let us sit down, you and I. Let us sit down, and let us learn a bit about each other.

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