I don’t know if our life on the road accentuates it, but lately I have been noticing how people seem to interact as little as possible. Moving every three months is a weird thing, not really having a home but also being “home” anywhere. It causes this sort of tension, where I feel like an island at times, but then, at the same time, I am more aware of the strangers around me. Anyone has the potential to be my next friend. But no one really wants to be. Each of our lives seem to have a specific orbit. We have our jobs, our family, maybe a church family, the stores and restaurants we frequent, maybe our kids’ sports teams, and if we are lucky, a few good friends. But does it ever feel like everyone tries to prevent their orbits from overlapping other people’s by too much? We keep our distance. We are too busy, too tired, we are afraid of people seeing that we don’t actually “have it all together,” or maybe we’ve been hurt one too many times. But we minimize the depth at which we allow our orbits to intersect. We might bump into the other parents at soccer games, we might give an extra tip to the familiar barista at our favorite coffee shop, we might even participate in a small group at church… but are we really sharing life with anyone on a deep level? Are we inviting anyone into our lives? Are we loving the people God puts in our paths on a regular basis?
I know it’s silly, but it’s this is only thing I could think of that illustrates what I see in my head. In this first picture, you will see what I am going to refer to as orbits. They are each unique and colorful, they might touch each other here and there, but they appear fairly controlled and orderly.
In this second one, you will see less order, more chaos, more overlap… but look at how much fuller and more colorful the picture is!
I want my life to be crazy colorful, full of other people’s uniqueness and gifts. And news flash: none of us have it all together. We all face challenges and struggles. But we all also have something special to share. We have met so many different types of people on the road and have made many friends that we are in touch with on a regular basis. And our lives, and our kids’ lives, are richer for it! But it’s not enough. We can never say “Oh, I have enough people in my life, I don’t have room for more.” Not true! Our purpose is to love Father and love people. You can’t love from a distance. You have to get close. You have to open yourself up, you have to be real, and you have to SEE people.
We go to a coffee shop owned by believers here in Billings and there are several baristas. One of them is super friendly, remembers us and chats with us. Another one is familiar and friendly, but not personal. The third can’t wait to be done with us. When we get dismissed by someone, it’s easy to want to dismiss or reject them back, maybe tip a little less. But maybe they just need to be seen too. We go to a great church here in town, but I have never met the same people twice, aside from Jake and River’s Sunday school teachers. It’s been four months and I have no church friends. Erich’s contract here in Billings, lined up with a youth soccer association’s season. Jake was thrilled to be able to play. There were only 7 practices and 7 games. We have lost every one of them so far. My hunch: the team isn’t a team! As soon as the games are over the team disperses. The kids don’t know each other! The parents don’t even interact. In the beginning, I would try to strike up a conversation with other moms, but it would never go anywhere. They each have their own circles and I’m not in any of them. That’s fine, I’m not trying to point the finger, I think this is a very normal, common occurrence.
Maybe life on the road is just lonely and none of you ever feel it. Maybe your orbit intersects deeply with other people’s, that’s awesome! But if not, maybe for one week, make an effort to be aware of the people you “bump” up against on a regular basis. Maybe take things a little deeper, ask real questions to the familiar face at the store and listen to their answer, invite someone out for coffee or over for dinner. I know I have said it before, but look people in the eyes! There is enough intolerance in the world today, but guess what? Tolerance isn’t what the world needs… it’s to be seen, heard and LOVED.
On a side note, if we are ever in your area and you want our family’s chaos and crazy to spill over into yours, we’d love to see you!