Chosen or given by grace?

This last week my meetings have been in person more than via the internet.

We entertained a visitor in our garden, the first time we had shared a meal beyond family. It was an intense period of preparation followed by a relaxing time of sharing and then a little conversation about Trustee work.

On another day I met a couple at the Meeting House to think through the preparations for an AA group to start meeting there. Again a lot of detail to go through but with a purpose of helping people. 

The Oakley family gathered for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, delicately negotiating space for meals and walking. 

And our wedding anniversary was celebrated with a special meal courtesy of food prepared, frozen and delivered ready for cooking. 

These meetings and the relationships within them feel like undeserved gifts. There is a passage in Quaker faith & practice which speaks to this. 

“In a true community we will not choose our companions, for our choices are so often limited by self-serving motives. Instead, our companions will be given to us by grace. Often they will be persons who will upset our settled view of self and world. In fact, we might define true community as the place where the person you least want to live with always lives!” Written by Parker J Palmer, 1977” (Qf&p 10.19)

I hasten to say that none of these meetings represented the case of people I ‘least want to live with’! But in many little ways each person gives a different perspective on the world; different from the one I have anyway. That is important. Everything from the choice of music, the commitment to service, work and leisure experience, all present alternative ways to live. 

Seeing people who live differently should be a matter of appreciating a precious gift. So often it is experienced as uncomfortable and others are seen as a threat. Learning not to be surprised instead of always expecting the expected is on ongoing task for me. So I am thankful for multitude of lives lived all around me, and especially grateful for the close relationships I have which span the years and which are still lovingly challenging. 

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