(The basic facts of this story are true. Some of the names and details have been changed to protect the innocent. The details that were changed are in italics.)
Friendship is hard to understand; it is equally hard to maintain and even though a person may have hundreds of “friends” on Facebook, it’s not the same thing as knowing a person over time, face to face. I think one of the reasons Facebook “works” is because many of the people we interact with every day are people we know well from another place and time. We are separated by distance. In my case, a lot of my FB friends are people I grew up with. If Bob Yodelle posts a picture of his old Ford F150 and writes “I’m a little bit country” I don’t roll my eyes and say “what a hick!” because I know Bob Yodelle really is a farmer and he is a little bit country. I also know that Bob Yodelle reads Russian novels in the winter and drinks raw milk.
Bob Yodelle is the real deal, although he may not seem that way to someone who just met him on Facebook.
I have a friend; her name is Grace. We come from different worlds. In another time and place, we would likely never have met; cheap petroleum has made a lot of things possible in our lifetime. I have learned many things from her and she has never judged me on the basis of the bills in my wallet, the books I read, my shoes, or the bumper stickers on my Jeep. We met while doing volunteer work and I will never forget how passionately Grace explained her rationale for joining the volunteer work club. She just wanted to “help poor people.” When she explained this to me, it seemed like her heart would break with compassion for people who had less than she did and it caused me to question my own motivation for joining the volunteer work club.
A few years have passed since we first met at the volunteer work club and we’ve concluded that there might be better ways to help poor people; we are both approaching this problem from slightly different angles. Nevertheless, she continues to work passionately and diligently in her own way to help others.
Grace is the real deal, although she may not seem that way to someone who just met her on Facebook.
Last year, Grace decided to start a small grass-fed hamburger business. She has worked tirelessly and passionately to bring good food at a good price to the people of a particular town. She has faced all the struggles of a small business owner; finding hard-working employees, dealing with town, state, and federal regulations, and figuring out the best ways to promote her business.
It has not been easy.
Recently, she’s faced a problem at her business that seems impossible to solve. I made a road-trip to the hamburger joint and enjoyed a sizzling grass-fed hamburger while Grace outlined the current problem she was trying to solve. In her methodical way, she verbally went over the pros and cons of each possible solution to the problem and the cost-benefit involved. Her problem was certainly more complex than the ones I face each day. I didn’t know if I could help her solve these problems, but I did the best I could to listen and encourage her.
Then she said “I feel really alone.”
Whenever someone uses the word “alone” a little bell goes off in my head and no matter how distracted I might be, I perk up and pay attention. I do this because if there is ONE THING I know and understand, I understand being alone. I have been alone here at the chicken coop-sized condo for over 10 years and although I have perfected the art and craft of it, whenever someone tells me they feel alone, my heart breaks with compassion for them.
I didn’t know exactly how to say what I was thinking, so I did my best imitation of a very well-spoken, brilliant, and inspiring person I know and said,
“LOOK, you’re not alone.”
I thought about this problem all day yesterday and I took action on several different angles. Today, I am doing the ONE THING Grace has always encouraged me to do.
I am writing about it.
These poppies are growing in the place where I am not alone. They’re beautiful and even though the grass needs mowing, the house needs painting, and the roof might be leaking, nothing stopped these poppies. LOOK at them, coming up alongside one another encouragingly.
Grace, I am wishing you a better day today. You’re the real deal.
Oh, and by the way, you are not alone.