Yesterday was an ordinary day. It started at a restaurant where I facilitate a Servant-Leader roundtable. I was warmly greeted by the manager. We chatted as he set the room for us. I later wondered how his living conditions are going. He had once mentioned that things weren’t good at home. I suspect the fact that he’s gay has resulted in family friction. The roundtable included a variety of people in a variety of situations: a young manager in training; a retired businessman who can now focus on his family and philanthropic interests; a couple of executives; and a couple of people between jobs; and so on. After the roundtable I learned that one of the participants is dealing with prostate cancer. That was quite a surprise.
Later in the day a dear friend of ours came over for dinner. She manages a kitchen at a local middle school and the weight of a long school year combined with the drama of managing low-wage workers in a demanding environment wears on her. She’s also dealing with the on-going resolution of the sudden death of her husband in a plane crash a few years ago. At one point in the evening I went in the back yard to take in the laundry I had hung out earlier in the day. As I was taking in the laundry I heard the neighbors talking over the fence. Some in English, some in Spanish. Ironically, I happened to be wearing a shirt noting “No person is illegal” in multiple languages.
Tonight we’re meeting a couple of long time friends for dinner. She works for the Federal Court system, he’s retired from teaching after finding his rheumatoid arthritis was too debilitating. My wife, Chaplain Helen, officiated at the recent funeral of their son. He had taken his life after years of suffering through mental illness. His death is still very much top-of-mind for them.
As I reflect on these days I realize I have done nothing to reach out to any specific person or group. The joys and pains of life exist everywhere we go. The fact that I am aware of a small fraction of the things people are going through only reminds me to be more open to the gift of the lives of those around me.