Worthy of Friendship

In the last few days, the social media newsfeed has shown numerous posts reflecting upon creating our circles, and choosing friends wisely. It’s left me with this thought. We teach our children to choose their friends carefully, curating relationships based upon outward actions, reputation, behavior, and other attributes that we can see with the eye. This is understandable. We don’t wish ill will or difficulty to come to our little ones as they learn and grow. We don’t wish their reputations before being fully formed, to be tarnished. We don’t want them to be on the receiving end of cruelty or ridicule by other students, and honestly, by other parents. We teach them to select friends from whom they will benefit by matter of character. We use these same principles when selecting our own circle of friends and colleagues. It’s said, “choose your tribe”, “select those who will help you soar”, “be around those who benefit you and challenge you”. This has merit. Yet, I ask, upon what is this based? The majority of the time it is based solely on outward presentation. When first meeting someone we have no other knowledge from which to draw a conclusion. It seems to me, rather than draw a conclusion of any kind, rather than selecting myself who I want to associate with, rather than picking and choosing based upon reputation, the focus should be inward. Am I someone that others would want to be around? Am I someone that helps uplift others? Am I someone that has depth of character and compassion to be a good friend, a good human to any and all or only to those who fit a certain mold? It saddens me to read things about discerning the character of others based solely on reputation, especially so when the person is young. I knew a girl in high school who had a poor reputation. She was referred to by many as “trashy”. Yet, few knew the details of repeated abuse that stole her value. She truly had not even “slept around”, as it was said. All it took was one or two foul mouthed male students who took from her something and then by their actions made her daily life hell. Freshman year, my second school already, and being the new girl with few friends, I was fortunate to have made a friend in her. She was real. She was honest. She was smart. She was significantly more than anything ever repeated about her.

Sophomore year brought another change of schools and a student who was decidedly cruel to me was waiting there. I never understood why. She would call me names in Spanish that would be inappropriate to repeat. She whispered to other girls about me. She occasionally pushed too hard walking past me, but not hard enough to be considered hitting. There was no reason, of course, so on most days, I shrugged it off. Somehow, in my 16 year old jolly optimism, I decided to do the opposite of what I wanted to do. She did frighten me because of her tough persona. Yet, nearly every time I saw her, I said, “Hi Angelina,” as if she was my best friend or on lesser days, I would at least smile. She wouldn’t talk other than to ridicule me. Other times, on days when I couldn’t handle it, I did steer away. Flash forward to graduation night after all the diplomas were passed out. There before me in white cap and gown with black mascara streaks down her face stood Angelina. She looked much smaller that night than when encountered in the halls. She said she never understood why I was always nice to her even though she didn’t return the treatment. Then she thanked me. What?! This girl, this bossy mean girl was thanking me? She then briefly told me of a rough life, of not having much, of not even having one true friend. She apologized to me for the nearly three years of whispers and hallway jabs. There was nothing to apologize for and standing there on the field in 100+ degree heat of late spring Phoenix weather, we hugged a long, earnest hug. We never saw another again. We didn’t exchange numbers. Yet, to this day I am changed by that moment with that girl of bad reputation and mean outward behavior. I can only hope she was changed too. Rather than focus on those who we perceive as worthy of spending our time with and worthy of befriending, it seems to me, we should focus on being worthy ourselves by not giving attention to outward representation shown to us by others, but instead on the inward reality of ourselves. Show love, give love, be love. This is what changes lives. 💓

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Cry, Little Sister

Mornings arrive and many nights pass,

Memories of her forever last.

 

Childhood laughter and tear streaked faces,

Echo in my thoughts and leave faint traces.

 

A familiar face in the children she bore,

Although her smoky voice will be heard no more. 

 

Long, wavy locks that floated as she danced

Hips swaying to music, lost in a trance.

 

She knew things some could never understand,

Sometimes a foe, eternally a friend.

 

Shared experiences led her to a painful journey,

A life cruelly stolen, a mother taken too early.

 

Each day I am gifted is truly a treasure.

This life brings to me fulfillment beyond measure.

 

Still sorrow waits in misty morn and sun-kissed mixture,

Love and joy do not lessen the loss of a sister. 

When will the heart be aweary of beating?

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I bruise easily. Purply blueish-grey colored blots appear, sticking out against my fair skin like a a blotch of silky ink on smooth white paper. The colors fade into a distant yellow and soon enough completely disappear leaving no remnants.

For as long as memory provides, just as my skin, I am also tender; sensitive to the emotion of a moment or of others. As a girl, hours were spent outdoors…exploring, picking up feathers, rocks, leaves and pine cones. I can recall finding birds with damaged wings to care for or other creatures; once a wounded baby Armadillo. One such feathered friend was kept in a box next to my bed. I fed it dots of mash made from earth worms and breakfast cereal. Using a dropper, I dripped water into the tiny beak. Eventually it was strong enough to be free. I set the box down on its side and encouraged the little bird to leave the safety it provided. There in the grass it sat, never taking another step further away, at which I cried. I didn’t want to say goodbye either.

One Summer I repeatedly watched The Elephant Man with John Hurt. Each time my eyes swollen and red with tears. When he was struck, I winced. I cried as he was beaten and left in the streets, then my heart would fill with hope as he sat in fine clothes at the theatre. Why couldn’t they see how beautiful he was…how kind…how intelligent? Convinced he needed a friend, I told my mom that once old enough, I would marry John Merrick. As usual, my mom laughed and shook her head. She and I were vastly different. She saw me as whimsical and a day dreamer; traits that not only did not fit into her practical view of the world but she saw them as a complete waste of time. This difference of perspective would cause great frustration in her. She often told me to be more serious. I was serious. Completely. It mattered not that John dies at the end. It was with all the confidence I had in my little girl’s heart that if we were married, he would live. He would be happy.

When will the stream be aweary of flowing
Under my eye?
When will the wind be aweary of blowing
Over the sky?
When will the clouds be aweary of fleeting?
When will the heart be aweary of beating?
And nature die?
Never, oh! never, nothing will die;
The stream flows,
The wind blows,
The cloud fleets,
The heart beats,
Nothing will die.

Now, fully grown and independent for nearly 25 years- more than half my life…my heart is just as tender. I still feel nature calling in her gentle breeze or firecracker whips of lightening. A landscape moves me as much as the sound of birds calling out “Good morning!” at dawn. This connection is something for which I am grateful. I sometimes walk alone in the rain just to feel the drops, each one filled with cleansing purity. Music moves my heart equal to a Spring storm…the kind where the Sun shines as droplets make blotches on the earth. I do not possess any musical ability, which makes me marvel all the more at amazing compositions that stir my thoughts into sweet emotions. Nature is my friend; Music my comfort. Whenever I feel blue, usually rather than share those feelings with others, a quiet walk among the trees or sitting with my eyes closed breathing in each melody of a masterfully composed piece of music, provides some peace.

I learned to accept my mushy-gushy, sentimental heart. It serves me well. It calls me to serve others…giving of my time, resources and myself through acts of charity or a willing ear. My sensitivity is now somewhat more refined. It has been influenced in the way that we all are…sifted by experiences as we grow older. My mom and I are different too. We respect each other as women now, not just love one another as mother and child. She recently gave me a card. In it she expressed that she is proud of the woman I am. Upon handing it to me she told me that it may seem she gave my sisters more but it was only because they needed more. She said she never worries about me…her middle child. She knows that I am always okay. Upon hearing this, my heart felt a little fuller.

This time of year- Autumn and my most favorite month of November, I usually find myself a bit more pensive. This seems a rather common feeling. The cooler weather brings holidays, busier schedules in preparation for another year’s end. In thought, I’ve realized that I learned a few things about the disposition I was given. It is a gift to me. Sometimes it makes for a lonely journey. However I would rather live feeling the world around me so deeply with every beat of the heart…feel connected to every particle than to live feeling detached and dispassionate. I have learned that a tender heart must be tendered. It requires attention. It requires room to breathe and heal. It requires moments spent in silent introspection. Most importantly, it requires splotches of light…light that can only come from giving…from loving. In this light, bruises fade a little faster. When will the heart be aweary of beating? Never, oh! never.

Nothing will die;
All things will change
Thro’ eternity.
‘Tis the world’s winter;
Autumn and summer
Are gone long ago;
Earth is dry to the centre,
But spring, a new comer,
A spring rich and strange,
Shall make the winds blow
Round and round,
Thro’ and thro’,
Here and there,
Till the air
And the ground
Shall be fill’d with life anew.

(With excerpts from Nothing Will Die– Alfred Lord Tennyson)