One of my closest friends is moving back to Germany this upcoming week. Yesterday, she and I had coffee, which was appropriate for several reasons. When we first met, we were in a coffee shop. It was awkward because she was afraid of speaking English to me and I had no idea what to talk about. But it was the beginning of a beautiful thing, nonetheless. Also, we both love coffee.
Saying goodbye to Fabienne was one of the hardest things I've done this year. But, as all of you know, I do not say goodbye anymore. It was "until next time." I was comforted by the fact that I will see her again very soon.
But it ran deeper than that. I knew - deeply, inately, soulfully - that Fabii and I aren't separate. The Atlantic Ocean is nothing more than a big, salty, pretentious lake. In this modern age of planes, trains, and automobiles, nothing ultimately separates us. But it got me thinking: before the airplane made it possible to circle the globe in a day, did any one really say goodbye? It reminds me of some of my favorite childhood books: The Little House on the Prairie series. After the Ingalls family left the Big Woods, Ma had to say goodbye to her parents forever. They would never see each other again before their deaths.
That is no goodbye. A daughter never says goodbye to her mother. They live in each other, in jokes, memories, recipies, dances, stories, songs, facial features. I think, in a way, we're all like that. We carry the Earth Family around inside of us. What makes us different brings us closer, and what brings us close keeps us from forgetting, leaving, losing each other. We are always together.
People sometimes give me odd looks when I talk like this. They expect that I've read Siddhartha one too many times (they are correct). But that isn't why I believe in a big Family called Human. I believe in it because I see it. I see it everywhere.
I work at my local community center. On Tuesdays, the second hour of my morning shift consists of whatever odd job my boss needs done that week. This week, it was the picking up of trash in the skate park on the community center grounds. My co-worker and I didn't have high hopes for that hour. But 45 minutes passed and not a single snivelly middle schooler had done or said anything rude to either of us. It was right about then that a red-haired kid threw a coke can at the fence (I was on the other side) and yelled: "Missed a spot!" I rolled my eyes and tried to reach through the fence.
Immediately, I heard ten seventh graders start yelling at their friend for making my job harder than it needs to be. One even came up and stuck the can through the fence for me. He held my gaze for a second. "I'm sorry, sir," he stammered. Then he ducked his head and retreated back to the bench he'd been sitting on.
I felt cared for by an unlikely crowd.
And what's to say the world isn't like that? People are the one element of nature that aren't governed by absolute laws and patterns of behavior. People are, at the very core of their beings, parts of a family.
And so I smile rather than frown when I think of Fabienne. It won't be long, yet. Family members don't stay away for long.
May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.