Wednesday, May 23, 2007

How Well Do We Know One Another?

My current illness prompted me to once again visit the doctor yesterday. After further exam it seems I am now on day nine of a viral infection that has an approximate 14 day life span. If this is true I have passed the halfway point on this annoying journey. By the time I went to the doctor, the pharmacy and a side trip to visit my ailing 84 year old mother in law in the hospital, the morning was gone and the day seemed to lack any potential for productivity. Never one to waste an opportunity to be unproductive I decided to stay home for the rest of the day, take my new medicines and enjoy the fact that they "may cause drowsiness". The one good part of sickness is all the sleep you get.

In 1999 my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. This year will make 58 years! For their 50th, my brothers and sisters and I had a party for them. One of the things we did at the party was take a family photo of Mom and Dad, my five brothers and sisters, the spouses, and all of the grandchildren. I have this picture on my bookshelf at home. One day Chloe picked up the picture and asked what it was. I told her it was her family. Now every time she comes over to my house, she picks up this pictures and says, "This is my family"! Chloe is such a welcome addition to the clan.

How well do we know one another? The reality is that most people do not intimately know the other people in their lives. I have sat at many family functions over the years thinking how little I know my own family and how little they know me. I could say the same thing about people I have worked with for many years. At the same time, people I don't even know write to me sometimes and say, "I feel like I know you.". It is true that many people know a lot about me because of my daily thoughts. Of course, even my daily thoughts do not reveal everything about me. I have always thought about the depth of the relationships in my life. I remember being challenged a few years ago when I was asked to write and deliver the eulogy at my father in laws funeral. How well did I know this man whose dinner table I sat at many times? Could I write and speak of this man and capture his essence with little time to prepare or to deliver? I am told I was able to do it but it would be a very difficult challenge to do it for many others. A lot of this "knowing" of other people requires listening and paying attention when you are around them. Too often our relationships are superficial and done on the run. Relationships take time and effort. Relationships are often difficult. Many people are exhausting. Sometimes when I am with people I am sincerely trying to listen to them while planning my escape at the same time. I don't doubt that sometimes people are also doing that with me. There are some people in my life that I am emotionally intimate with but they are few. I feel like I have many "friends" and acquaintances but few that I am really close with and with whom I feel comfortable sharing my deepest feelings. I am very grateful for the few that give me the luxury of truly being myself. I think my experience is pretty normal. You really can't have intimate friendships with fifty people. It's like the difference between a dinner party and a wedding reception. At the dinner party you can often open up and have deep conversations about life and your experiences. At a wedding reception it is all you can do to say hello to everyone. Admittedly I think it would be nice if my knowledge could expand and I knew a little more about the hopes, wishes, and dreams of those most important in my life. I do care about a lot of people even if I do not know everything about them. Maybe we can all make a little more effort to know others and allow them to know us.

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