“Even if you like living alone, that doesn’t always mean you want to be alone.”
The author and journalist Lisa Napoli does this thing where she opens her door on Friday nights and throws a “party” in her LA abode. Anybody can come and socialize. It’s such a lovely idea and seems like a great way to build relationships and foster community in one’s own way.
The sentiment of this idea reminds me of a story theologian Roberta Bondi once told about being involved and showing up:
“I would just find when I came home at the end of the day, I would be so exhausted that I could hardly contain myself. And I would be met at the car, usually, pulling into the driveway by my two children and my husband, who would all come out to tell me all the things that had gone wrong in the day, like the washing machine had overflowed and the rug in the dining room was soaking wet. And I would think, ‘Oh, I just want to go back to school.’ I would come into the house, and Richard and I would fix supper, and then we would sit down and eat and I would fall asleep with my head in the mashed potatoes. But the fact is that I knew all along that, however it was, it was better that I was there than that I wasn’t there, that my family needed me, that being part of a family means showing up for meals. And prayer is like that. However we are, however we think we ought to be in prayer, the fact is we just need to show up and do the best we can do. It’s like being in a family.”
Sharing Love with a Woman I Hardly Know
by Destiny Dorozan, guest contributor
“The Platform of Surrender” (photo: Anna Gay/Flickr, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
While going through the process of divorcing my husband, living as a single mother with my daughter, working full time in a classroom for severely physically and cognitively disabled children, and going to college full time in the evenings, I began to ponder what true love is. It was during this time that I had the following experience with a wonderful lady, Ms. Fran.
Ms. Fran comes every day to our class, to help us feed one of our students at lunchtime. Her hands gnarled with age, she folds his fingers around the spoon, helping him grip it. Suddenly one day, she turned, leaned into me, and said, “I was very blessed. I had an excellent husband. Fifty-two years, and he died nine years ago. He was a loving husband, an excellent father, and a friend.”
She smiled on that last bit, knowing that everything else grew out of that friendship.
“He treated me like a princess, always brought me flowers for no reason. One time I asked him why he brought them: Did he do something wrong he was trying to make up for?”
He scoffed at her. He told her she deserved the flowers “because you’re a good girl.”
Ms. Fran apologized to her husband for the doubt and explained, “I never asked why again when he brought me flowers. He just kept bringing them, and I kept accepting them for 52 years.”
Today, we celebrated Fran’s birthday in class. We got her a bouquet of flowers and a cake. I was the first to sign the card, and I wrote, “Because you’re a good girl.”
I wrote it good and big across the top. When she read it, her eyes watered, her fingers shook, and she stopped to give me a second hug before she continued reading. She said, “That brings back memories. God bless you.”
After lunch was over, she leaned toward me again and said, “I’ll remember that forever. Thank you.”
This morning, I kept thinking ‘I just want to be special to someone, to share some special relationship, each recognizing the universal love in each other and sharing in it together.’ I had been thinking of how lucky she was to have had the beautiful relationship with her husband and, of course, couldn’t help but wish that I will find that for myself.
Having this experience made me realize that it is not just an experience between two sweethearts. It happens any time two people recognize in each other the love of the universe manifest — become connected by it, share mutually in it. That is what true love is, not the desires of the ego.
Today, I had the experience of sharing love with a woman I hardly know, celebrating her 79th birthday. Life continues to be more surprising, inspiring, and fulfilling than I could ever have imagined. Contented sighs and prayers of gratitude follow.
Destiny Dorozan is a student of Clinical Psychology at the University of Detroit Mercy, mother to a beautiful flower, Lily, and a published poet. Her poetry can be found in the online journals Rogue Poetry Review and The Ambassador Poetry Project.
We welcome your original reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.
Lessons on Friendship from an Afghani Refugee Family
by Heidi Naylor, guest contributor
In 2001 my husband approached me about hosting an Afghan refugee family of four. I was hesitant. But my reservations — lice, tuberculosis, loss of solitude — seem petty and insulting now. In the end, they were outweighed by his enthusiasm.
So our family arrived one evening just before Memorial Day, exhausted from long travel. We stood outside nodding, smiling, shaking hands. Akbar wore a dark suit, Rahima a blouse and skirt and heels, the children ribbons and a bow tie and shined shoes. We had pizza and soda and very few words.
The next day we bought a Russian-English dictionary. We couldn’t find one in Dari, the family’s native tongue, but they’d spent years in Moscow so we found common words through a language belonging to none of us. Spasíba, pazhálusta, ímya, lagushka. The children laughed with our kids and our dog in the backyard. They needed no book, and before long were translating for their parents.
Over the weeks our English developed an accent, and we took to pantomime. One evening my son said he was going to take a shower. He mimicked the spray above his head and pretended to shampoo himself. I smiled. “Kid, I speak English!” Akbar watched with growing pleasure, finally erupting in laughter.
Rahima cooked succulent, beautiful meals with lamb and cumin, raisins and cilantro. We searched for her preferred rice and found a species of basmati I still buy for pennies per pound from an Asian grocer. Its burlap bag features an inked-on label: “Once taste eat for ever.”
Rahima made me tea four times a day, despite my discomfort at her servitude. She asked if I’d like one shovel of sugar or two. We laughed over the confusion of “kitchen” and “chicken.” She taught me to cook the okra I’d never liked in a way that was savory and “deshilous.”
One day we discovered our youngest sons were born within ten days of one another, on opposite sides of the Earth. Sistera, she said, pointing shyly at me, and she has introduced me in that way to her friends every since.
As our common words increased, we began to linger over dinner. We sprinkled our tea with cardamom, bit into Rahima’s crunchy lemon cookies, and listened as Akbar spoke of the Taliban and its terrible grip. “I want carpet,” he said, gesturing toward our Persian rug. “I want car, home for children. Television. Taliban no good,” he said, “no what you want…” He searched, settling on the Russian: svabódny. No liberty. Everyone was silent. I poured more tea. He looked around the table at his children, his sweet shy wife, our children. “Politic,” he said, like you or I might say “robotic.” He slapped his palm on his thigh. “I wery like.”
Our Christian religion requires fasting one Sunday each month, so I fixed breakfast for our guests and explained why we couldn’t join them to eat. Rahima asked, “One month?” — no doubt thinking of the Ramadan fast her religion requires. Well, no. But the practice, fasting in faith and devotion, was another thing we’d found in common.
After several weeks, their English improved to where they found jobs at a thrift shop and auto auction. They moved into an apartment nearby, the next step on the way to citizenship. And then, Nine-Eleven.
My husband was traveling, and I feared for his safety. I cried with the nation, watched in disbelief as footage revealed Muslims across the globe dancing in the streets. I phoned our friends and learned they’d also spent the day glued to the television. That evening the kids and I dropped by, and Rahima prepared a tray of tea and cookies. We chatted: work, new friends in the apartment complex, the start of school, the horrific attack. The talk was quiet. Their graciousness and loveliness were immediate, familiar, genuine. Our kids ran and shouted together in the grassy square outside the window.
Soon they moved to a larger city, seeking better employment, as any American is likely to do. We’ve visited them across the country; their children have grown and are pursuing further education, poised to better themselves and, as they do, make further contributions, again like so many Americans.
Before they moved away, I drove Akbar to the Immigration and Naturalization Service office to take care of some paperwork. Taped to the clerk’s window was a notice: “Warning!! If you have more than 180 days of unlawful presence in the United States it is our strong recommendation that you do not leave the United States for any reason.”
This was odd to me, but it was no more strange than the questions on Akbar’s application seemed, since I’d come to know him, though I understand their necessity: “Are you wanted for extradition for a crime you have or have not committed? Are you wanted for questioning or as a material witness? Are you or have you ever been engaged in espionage? Do you advocate the overthrow of the United States government by force or sedition?” (One woman thought a moment and answered, “force.”)
I did my best to explain each question. We smiled a bit. There was some patient, acquiescent laughter, and Akbar checked his answer in a box. In this way we tried to give the official behind the glass a clear picture of Akbar and his family. Some reliable notion of who they’d come to be.
We welcome your reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on the Being Blog. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.
Sweetness to the Rotten Core
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Yesterday I posted this good morning message on our Facebook page: “Shana Tova! Special memories from New Years past?” Lauren Rosenfeld, an author and blogger living in Asheville, North Carolina, shared this wonderful memory:
“One Rosh Hashanah I came home from a busy day at work and brought out the apples to cut up and dip in the honey to share with my husband and our four little children. When I cut into the apples, they were rotten to the core (literally!). I was more than a little freaked out (being admittedly a tad superstitious about such things).
I ran to our next door neighbor (who was not Jewish). She smiled and brought us fresh apples — and joined us to celebrate the new year. In the end I felt grateful for the “bad apples” because they allowed us to bring in the new year with the sweetness of friendship and generosity. Lesson learned: Even bad apples can be a gift! ♥”
These are the tales that overwhelm me. Thank you Lauren. Wishing you all the sweetness and friendship of a new year.