No (Wo)man is an Island

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La Mirada, California- three sisters, the middle one’s name is Mackenzie. She’s slim, witty, and has irresistibly blue eyes.

Her friends and sisters call her is Mack. Her father used to say that she was the son he never had because she was so unemotional. When there were spiders in the bathroom, Mack was always the default spider-killer.

When Mack and I were roommates, there was always at least one guy knocking on our  to see her.

“We’re just a great group of girls! We just have a very inviting apartment,” She’d protest when we teased her.

Mack was funny like that. Always dismissing attention. Her blue eyes drew you in like a moth to a flame, but you could never get past the exterior.

My friend Melissa lives in South Carolina. I don’t know when I’ll see her again and we have met only twice, but the woman doesn’t know a stranger. She opens her heart and her home and gives more freely than most people I know. She rescues people from loneliness. She’s a sort of hero.

Her rescue dog, Thor, is basically an extension of herself. He’s black and looks like a barrel with legs. He’s gentle, though, and he only has eyes for Melissa. They make quite a pair.

Perhaps the most remarkable is LaBreeska. She was warm and witty, elegant and eloquent, and crowned with beautiful white hair – that is, until the cancer came. Even then, she stared at the pain with courteous eyes.

“Darlin’,” She’d tell me with her southern drawl, “You gotta find a reason to laugh.”

For the few short years I really knew her, I felt that knowing her was glimpsing a generation better than my own. She was, in the words of Stephen Vincent Benét who aptly described the Southern woman, as “slightly-made but hard to break as a rapier-blade.”

Women aren’t like that these days. We call people like LaBreeska old-fashioned and hold people at arm’s length like window panes keeping moths from reaching the light.

Women are too independent these days. We forget that we need one another.

If I could, I’d tell the woman next to me to put her phone down the next time she’s at a lake. Instead, I’d tell her to pick up a rock and throw it as far as she could and watch the furrowed water ripple to the shore. I’d tell her that people are just like that. What we set in motion will touch dozens of lives.

Women are too frantic these days. I wish more of us knew that we don’t have to have it altogether all at once. God made seasons for a reason. Enjoy them as they gently fold into one another.

Mack showed me one of the most delightful senses of humor I’ve ever seen

Melissa tells me to be brave and optimistic when I don’t feel like it.

LaBreeska showed me how to maintain kindness and dignity, even when your heart is breaking and your body is failing.

There are more. There’s Margaret who showed me the rugged, romantic world of New England and the colors of Maine in the fall. There’s Barbara who once drove across the state to spend the night and she told me just how badly I needed to get over myself- I can’t begin to list all of the women I’ve met who have contributed to who I am.

I wish that community was celebrated more.  The world would have you to think that you’re on your own.

If we really are islands, I want to build more bridges. I want to throw open my shutters and put a light in my window so that people know they’re always welcome.

“The world is hot and cruel, [and] we are weary of heart and hand” G.K. Chesterton once admitted. He then followed up with, “But the world is full of more glory than you can understand.”

Nobody needs to argue that the world is brutal and isolating. Loneliness can be the most crushing of all. We know this. We long to escape it.

When I first moved to Chicago, I sat at a Starbucks and listened to the conversation between the two girls behind me. It was easy, light, comforting. I wanted that so badly.

Now I am in a season surrounded by friends and I am grateful. True friendships are rare and I hope I never neglect them simply because they’re uncomfortable or inconvenient at times.

The next time you see someone who appears to be struggling, don’t ignore her. Make a new friend and help her to see the glory of the world around you. Throw open the shutters. Build a bridge.

 


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