11:03. She sat there poised and ready; gift bag on the table, latte in her hand. It was obvious by her anxious phone checking that this precious little brunette, whom we’ll affectionately call “Top Knot,” was anticipating someone’s arrival.
Now weeks after Christmas, her poinsettia gift bag alluded to a much-anticipated reunion. And yet she sat there, patiently waiting for what seemed like eons for her mystery coffee date. I settled into the table adjacent to hers and tried busying myself with my writing and Americano, but I was so drawn to this girl, so curious about whom she was very anxiously awaiting.
11:23. That’s when her friend arrived. I can only assume by the odd time and the amount left of her latte that her friend, we’ll call her “Glasses,” was severely late. And yet, “Top Knot” seemed totally unfazed, gracious, and 100% excited to finally be reunited with her friend.
Now I promise you that I wasn’t eavesdropping…on purpose. I had a mountain of work I was powering through that Thursday afternoon, BUT when you’re at a coffee shop, crammed in like sardines, it’s nearly impossible to NOT pick up on what your fellow caffeine drinkers are chatting about. And because of the dearness of their interaction, and the fact that you’re about to experience something truly heartwarming, I refuse to apologize.
It became instantly obvious that “Glasses” had recently become engaged. He put a ring on it and she was flashing it. “Top Knot” squealed with excitement over the ring, the wedding details and the slew of obligatory bridesmaids dress pictures they began scrolling through on their iPhones. Now before you dismiss this interaction as one that is stereotypical of “millennials” with their surface friendships and absorption in tech world, let me just assure you that nothing could be further from the truth.
As women of all ages do, they quickly hopped from topic to topic in their conversation, joyfully chatting and catching up on life. And then, something caught my eye… because let’s be honest, writers are creative and it doesn’t take much to distract us.
Amidst the wedding chatter, “Glasses” had gone painfully and almost immediately silent. As “Top Knot” reached across the table grasping her friend’s hand, the tears and the story flowed. Over Christmas break, “Glasses” had lost her mother to an extensive battle with cancer. She recounted in heartbreaking detail the events surrounding her mother’s passing. And as “Top Knot” leaned into her friend’s pain with an empathetic ear, you could literally see ease returning to “Glasses” tear stained face. Compassion, understanding, grace, permission to be real and vulnerable, all the things that we long for in friendship were being selflessly offered to one another in their exchange.
As their conversation progressed, “Top Knot” poured authentic love and encouragement into her friend’s deep wounds. She spoke so tenderly to “Glasses” about who she was as a daughter, the incredible valor and character of her mother, and her devotion to help incorporate her mother’s legacy into the wedding in any way she wished. As she continued to love and encourage “Glasses” in her pain, courage, perspective and confidence once again graced this 20-something’s countenance.
And then, “Glasses” did something truly rare. She turned the tables. She refused to remain solely focused on her own set of circumstances and began genuinely inquiring about “Top Knot’s” latest happenings. Taken aback by her friend’s tenderness a midst her pain, “Top Knot,” accepted the invitation to open up about her own life’s challenges.
And the reason I share that with you is this: what I witnessed that random Thursday afternoon was something that at our core we all crave:
You see, our No Small Lives were never intended to go it alone. There are far too many challenges to shoulder the weight of by your lonesome and in contrast, far too many joys to keep merely to yourself. Many of us shy away from community because it’s scary.
To truly put yourself out there with another person, to be real and honest and let someone see you in all your vulnerable glory, takes a courage that few of us are willing to muster. But, as I was reminded on a random Thursday in my local coffee shop, fewer things are more beautiful and more necessary to our soul than a life shared and lived out together.
What strides have you taken in your own life to push past the scary and to press into genuine friendship? You have so much in you friend, so much to offer another person…
Until next time,