I am sitting at a long dining table with 14 other people. They are all talking about good things, things that are meaningful; it’s not exactly a free for all, so people are taking their turn to share or express something about their experience towards the head of the table, this takes a long time, but as far as I can see there is nothing to fault their sincerity. But I am just not interested and cannot connect to what is of obvious value to them. In fact so much so I feel bored and frustrated and am thinking if I could just leave the table. (Probably how my kids feel when grandma tells them to not get down from the table until they finish their greens.) And now I feel uncomfortable, because if I am bored then I have to ask myself what is my relationship to these people, people that I work ‘with’.
Suddenly I go beyond my boredom. I realise in a moment that if I take these people to be my family, I don’t need to be interested in what they are saying to be at peace, to just be grateful that I can sit with them, to realise that in one way or another I love them.
And then everything seems to have changed. I have to try hard not to cry. (It is a relatively formal setting for goodness sake.) And then someone who I like to listen to but doesn’t normally like to talk in large groups starts talking, and what he shares is candid and personal and I am still able to be in the moment and I can sense the quality of the others around me even more. I catch the atmosphere in the room that I had over looked, that I had been blind to. And I am just grateful to be in the moment and be with these 14 people.
Then someone else starts talking, and speaking in vague spiritual generalisations about the ‘time we live in’, and I let go of the moment and am back in my narrowness. But it was worth it, and there is a residue of that peace swirling around me.
We all get up from the table.
I go and talk to a friend who is a bit down, and try to help them and cautiously offer them some encouragement, we say a prayer together.
Then I meet a doctor on the stair case, one of our German church leaders, I ask him about my bad leg problem, and he measures my legs against each other, sticks some needles in my hand, and looks at me in a way that makes me feel better already.
Meetings: they are what you make of them, and I am learning…..to not take them at face value.