Nearly all of my twenties have been spent in DC, but they have been gloriously punctuated by dear friends who live far away. Before we get to them, two other thanks are in order, to explain the fullness of these relationships.
First, shout-out to mom and dad. Aside from seasonal allergies and unshrinkable thighs, I am grateful for nearly everything that my parents have given me. But it wasn’t until I left home that I realized one particularly rare gift that I had taken for granted: the stubborn persistence of relationships across time and space. I was never taught that people could be seasonal – in your life at one moment, then gone the next – and so it never became part of my worldview. Some of this belief can be attributed to my very stable small town. People just stayed, so you stayed friends with them. But most of what formed this line of thinking has been a gift, passed on from my parents. Long car rides were a chance for dad to go through his phone book and catch up with friends from high school or college. Visits to new cities were excuses to drop in on old friends and stories would be interrupted mid-beat with the directive to call up so-and-so and have them finish the story, verbatim. My parents’ friends do not exist in frozen photographs or yearly Christmas cards; they are real people with voices that I recognize and homes that have been opened to me.
The second thanks goes to technology, or perhaps better still, the God who saw fit to have me born into a generation that would be heart-wrenchingly mobile, yet able to speak face-to-face with just the touch of a button. I’m still holding out for teleportation, but in the meantime, FaceTime, Skype, Google Hang-Outs and StageIt shows allow me to see the faces of loved ones across the miles, in real time, and Facebook gives me a window into the daily life of friends that a little more than one decade ago would not have been possible.
My parents’ belief in the importance of lasting relationships and the increasing connectivity afforded by technology have paved the way for the depth of these relationships. In my twenties, as I moved far from home and far from those who knew me, it never occurred to me that I had a choice. We would all just simply keep being friends. And I am grateful.
Now. Onto you who are out there.
To my family.
You guys. You are the best. I can’t imagine having another one. We all genuinely like each other – cousins, aunts/uncles, siblings, right on up the list. Really! Snapchat and secret Facebook pages and sometimes even snail mail keep us in touch, when we’re not home for the holidays or together on vacation. My parents come and visit all the time and not just to check in, but to genuinely know and experience my world so they can love it through my eyes. Last year, my sister and I saw each other during eleven out of the twelve months – this year, we’re tracking at more like eight, but still not too shabby for living five states away. And if you take into account gchat, FaceTime, and regular old phone calls, I would guess that less than 100 days have passed during this whole decade that I haven’t spoken to at least one member of my family. They are the best, and just continue to get better, even though we keep spreading further apart.
To my other family.
My friend family. Mal-o, Seth, Steve, Kevin, Emily, Ellie, Rachel, Dave, Matthew, Adam and Larissa, in order of appearance. Most of you have known me for every birthday of my twenties. Some of you were even involved in a kidnapping scheme when I turned 21. And here we are, all these birthdays later. All I can say is thank you. Thank you for pressing in, through my stubbornness and strong opinions. Thank you for believing me when I insisted that it would be better if we all stayed friends [file under: stubbornness and strong opinions]. I’m grateful that you have used your precious few vacation days to travel to West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania – all for the sake of laughter and being known. Thank you for trusting me with the raw parts of your story and for patiently listening as my own layers pulled back. I would trade 100 ordinary Tuesdays for just one day of being all together again. I’m grateful for our holidays, but also for our phone calls and email chains and letters and Hang-outs. I’m grateful for floors made of lava and for croquet mallets and for Dave’s chefs knife. For planned spontaneity and systems of personal involvement and banagrams and fishbowl. For your honesty. For your willingness to stay awake until the last person arrived at home. For loving me enough to argue with me and to call me out when I’m in the wrong and to let me cry until I feel better. It is impossible to describe all of the ways and reasons why I am grateful for you, but they are known to you. Thank you.
And finally, to the Rabbit Room.
More specifically, to you kindred souls that I have met at Hutchmoot. Thank you. You are silly and kind and brave and faithful. A collection of souls that makes me want to live up to what you believe me to be. At best, I only see these friends once a year, and in many ways, it cannot be explained why I love these people so. This year, they will be gathering without me, while Laura and I venture off to celebrate our 30th birthday in New York City. But each day, they pass through my newsfeed, “ennobling the whole shebang” with music, laughter, anecdotes and prayers – a shiny corner of the generally dark interwebs. Most of these friends could not tell you where I went to college or what I do for a living or the name of my hometown. But they know my heart, and that is more than enough.
I can’t help but think that life would be better if you were all here, meeting me for coffee, coming over for dinner, sitting next to me in the pew. But the Lord who is over all of us has determined to place us in our own little postage stamps. Yet He has given us each other.
And I am grateful.