You Have Got To Reach

Once upon a time, I spoke to a woman who said, “I don’t feel adequate enough to talk to you.”

How’s that for an opening?

This woman had reasons to feel less-than, stuck, and scared. To protect her privacy, I won’t share those reasons here. It suffices to say that she had a tough history.

She dreamed of helping other people,
but struggled to help herself.

When I encouraged her to get support for her journey, she made an effort and asked for help once. But when she didn’t hear back, she stopped asking.

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Do You Risk Reaching Out?

Have you ever received an invitation that made your heart say YES before your mind could even catch up? Ever had such a strong gut feeling that you needed to be at this exact place, doing this exact thing?

That’s how I felt when I was asked to give the keynote speech at this year’s Heart of L’Arche Fundraising Breakfast in Arlington, Virginia on April 25, 2018.

Titled, “Risk Reaching Out,” this talk was part of a program that helped raise over $135,000 to support the L’Arche Greater Washington DC community.

L’Arche is a worldwide nonprofit that creates homes where people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities share life together.

(I served in various roles there for five years, and it’s where my husband Jonathan and I met. The people there are family, and they are with me wherever I go.)

Click here to watch the keynote talk on YouTube, or press play below. I also include the approximate text of the talk, so you can read along.

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The Dance of Disconnection (And Some New Moves)

You’ve probably had this happen to you.

Coffee & connections, 2012. Photo Credit: Sarah Bayot

You see a person you love after an extended time apart. It’s wonderful to reunite. You feel so fortunate to have this friendship; you’re sure you’ll keep in touch.

And then you go home, back to your everyday life, and you don’t call them for months.

This isn’t something you do on purpose. It’s just that one day you wake up and realize that you’re disconnected, despite your good intentions.

At this point, you have a few options. You can:

A) Shrug off the guilt, saying that you’ll call at an unspecified ‘later’ date. However, you know you won’t call. You feel too bad about not having called already. This a fear-based cop-out.

B) Pretend it doesn’t matter (‘They won’t really care one way or the other’). There’s just one problem: You do care, and most likely they do too. This is another fear-based cop-out.

C) Take a deep breath and pick up the phone (or write the email or set the date). This is the brave choice.

No judgment here; I’ve chosen all three. In fact, I typically move through A and B before C. I let guilt drive me, then I turn to denial, and then I muster up some bravery and do the right thing.

***

Such was the case when I called my dear friend Leo* to wish him a happy birthday. I’d had the joy of visiting with him in November, but I’d let the intervening time go by without picking up the phone. Though I knew that Leo wouldn’t give me a hard time, I felt bad for not calling sooner, and I had to psych myself up to do so.

But the minute I heard his voice on the line, it was so clear to me: we can’t let fear rule our friendships.

So if you’re doing that ridiculous ‘I can’t call/reach out now; it’s been too long’ dance that we all do, just know this: you only have to push past fear for the time it takes the phone to ring.

***

Performing in an Old McDonald skit

Keep your friends close, and your fellow Old McDonald skit participants closer … (2010)

Leo and I spoke about his birthday plans and recapped local news. (A car literally crashed into the McDonald’s where he has coffee every day. Fortunately, Leo wasn’t there, and the driver is recovering.) He told me he liked my birthday gift. I glowed; “like” is high praise from Leo.

Gradually, we came to that pause that signals the end of a conversation. The pause in which you feel the distance between you, but also how you’ve bridged that distance.

“Okay,” I said. The small word held so much. I didn’t have to say, “I miss you,” or, “You’re like family.” It was all right there.
“Okay,” he replied.
“If it’s all right, I’d like to call more,” I said.
“That’d be good,” he said. “See you … no, talk to you … soon.”

I felt such energy and gladness afterward; it felt so good to be done procrastinating that phone call. For the rest of the afternoon, I flew through my work with enthusiasm. And the word enthusiasm comes from the Greek en theos, meaning, God within.

God within when we have brave days, choosing connection … and God within even when we don’t have brave days. Even when we fail to show others how much we care. Even when we feel, so acutely, the distance between who we are and who we want to be. Even then.

Because wherever love is, there is God.  

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What relationship do you want to rekindle? Join the conversation in the comments!

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AWCC Around The Web:

Upcoming speaking engagements – if you’re in the area(s), I’d love to see you there! 

  • Florence Lauderdale Public Library, February 24, 2013, 2-3pm
  • Living Spirit Church, Florence, AL, March 3, 1:30pm
  • Faith Inclusion Network, “That All May Worship” Conference, Norfolk, VA, March 14-15

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*Names have been changed.