I Need Friends
After the collapse of her parents' business, Bunny kept trudging forward, head down, abandoning herself to nothingness--until a conversation one night with a friend.
About fifteen years ago, my parents started a used car lot on their five-acre home property with a younger guy working to manage the business. After my father's death three years ago, the business started to decline, and we discovered in March that the guy was writing bad checks and not running the business properly. We got more involved, and learned about many wrongdoings on his part: taking advantage of my mom, even stealing. To make matters even more complicated, my mom experienced a significant cognitive decline early in the year, so my siblings and I stepped in to help her with the business and her personal financial matters. Providing this help has literally consumed the past several months. Since April, things have gotten even more complicated, more unjust, and more time consuming.
Throughout these months, I have been stressed, tired, frustrated, worried, and trying my best to stay on top of all my life's responsibilities at home, at work, in the Movement, and now at my "second job" at the car lot. Looking at the meaning of the situation didn't occur to me. I just kept my head down, kept trudging away at the work, and hoped that it would soon be over.
When I would talk with friends about what was happening, I didn't know how to explain it all without taking hours. It's very complicated. So after a while, I found myself answering the question, "How's the car lot? How's your mom?" with shorter and shorter answers. Using the excuse of how complicated it was, I was avoiding getting into it with them--and I think even with myself. I did not want to really look at it. I had noticed this tendency to hold back in front of friends, but I didn't face it; I just kept trudging. It's not that I didn't believe there could be meaning in it or that I rejected the meaning. I didn't even consider looking at it as a possibility of something meaningful happening. I saw it as something to survive, to get through. Clearly, I didn't choose nothingness. I abandoned myself to it and lived it mostly overwhelmed.
At a fraternity group dinner late in the summer, my friend Sam asked me how it was going with the car lot. Something about the simple way he asked, the way he looked at me with genuine interest, both in the situation and in me, moved me profoundly. We talked about it, and I remember that when he needed to go into his house for something, I followed him in order to keep talking, like I was a little kid who needed to keep telling my story. I had been seen! Something had happened. It was not a harps-playing, sun-shining-through-the-clouds moment. Instead, it was the simplicity of a friend who cares, who showed interest in what was going on with me. This simple event awakened me. My humanity was awakened.
I felt buoyed up and stronger in front of the difficulties, in front of the injustice of all that was happening with this guy at the car lot. I felt more ready to face it. And I could see more: I could see myself in front of the situation in a new way, simply by experiencing my friend's genuine interest. This "seeing more" made me want to do the car lot work out of love. Love for my mom, for my brother and my sister. The realization didn't change the frustration, the tiredness, the work. But it changed everything because I was changed in front of it. I'm awake now and I want to know what God has in store for me in this work.
What happened that day at the Nelson's demonstrates how much I need friends to help me see reality, to help me see myself. It shows how easily I get stuck in my circumstances and just want things to be solved, or get through them. I need friends to show me, through their look on me, that there is an Other who loves me, who is showing me His love, even in difficulties. I need friends who help me not to abandon myself to nothingness. Friends who show me another way, simply by journeying with me.
This experience shows me that I very easily get stuck. It shows me that I think I know what it looks like when there is meaning. This is so strong that when it doesn't look the way I think it "should" then I assume there is nothing. And I stop looking. Instead, this experience opens me to the possibility that all of reality contains something, or better, someone who is calling to me. That what I need is the possibility of that openness, that looking, that listening. I don't need circumstances that line up with what I want or with my images, I need friends who help me to be open to what is there.
Bunny, Minneapolis, Minnesota