Sunday, February 7, 2010

Aint No Party Like a Peoples Party!

It's been a long time, Readers. Are any of you still there?
(That was me echoing into the dark and never ending abyss of the Internet.)

I want to tell you a little story. A story about changes that occur within the heart. About moments easily missed when hidden among other moments that look almost identical. Except that they are not. Like a four leaf clover nestled against all his three leaved brethren, you'd pass it by if you weren't looking closely.

I have been so lonely.
I don't talk about it much because, well, there isn't anything I can do about my current situation. He's gone all the time and I'm here with the kids. The end. Fin.

This past weekend saw the dumping of over two feet onto the Baltimore and DC metro areas. This snow came atop the few inches that we already had. It dealt swiftly and deftly in it's silently falling beauty and rendered hundreds of thousands of people without power, roads undriveable, and people basically, stuck.

What do you do when you're stuck to keep from losing your mind, I asked my Facebook friends.
And one of my friends, Caroline, whom I have always admired for her spontaneous and outgoing ways suggested that I have a party in the lobby and invite my neighbors. I instantly thought it a brilliant idea and began working on a flyer to post in the lobby. But as I sat in front of the computer to type it, a silent and unnamed fear crept up my spine and began to whisper things in my ear.
No one will come.
You will be sitting out there all alone and no one will come.
It will be just like team sports at school and you will be left standing last. Alone. Waiting for someone to choose you... but no one will.

And for a moment I entertained these thoughts allowing the fear to cripple my heart; to freeze my fingers before the keys. But then I stopped and asked myself, who have I become? This is not ME.

There is a joke within my family that you could drop me from an airplane and I would have made dinner plans with new friends before I hit the ground. Maybe this was true. Before. But before when? Before what? I don't know when this shift occurred; when I lost that inner spark that compels me to talk to strangers; to beckon them into my home, to pry gently into their minds. The desire to know the hearts of people and to show them mine. But nevertheless I thought it gone.

As I sat in front of my computer entertaining the slanderous words of the fear perched atop my shoulder and began to consider the person I was: free and so fun; I decided just to BE HER. Because I AM HER. She is ME. And so I flicked fear in the nose and began typing. I affixed one flyer to the entrance of my building and one to the mirror in the foyer, and like Moses's sister watching from the banks of the Nile I waited for someone to pass my note.

People began to stop and look and chat about it and I ran back to my apartment to prepare. I made what were probably the worst cookies of my life due to the fact that some stray, uncooked black beans snuck into the batter somehow and became quite a nuisance when bitten down upon. But I planned to serve them despite that fact. I was also taking my two bottles of Shiraz that I had planned to ration for myself throughout this storm. But what good is wine if not enjoyed in the company of others?

From time to time I would venture into the lobby to peek at my note and see if anyone had taken it down, and at one point I saw an older couple that I had exchanged pleasantries with looking it over.
"I put that up", I said. "I thought maybe everyone would like to get out of the apartment for a bit."
"What a wonderful idea!" they both exclaimed and agreed instantly to contribute to the wine and cookies with a stash of their own.
I thanked them both and we agreed to meet in the lobby at seven.

The clock seemed to move in slow motion, it's hands stuck in invisible molasses, but slowly, surely, it eventually came to rest at 6:45 and I headed to the lobby thinking I would be the only person there.
But I was wrong.
There sat Jack, the male half of the older couple I had spoken with earlier. He sat on the blue, contemporary couch in the lobby with his hands folded neatly in his lap as The Macarena played loudly on a small stereo he had set up near the neatly placed box of Franzia, Dixie cups, and M&M cookies. My heart instantly swelled and filled with a warm love for Jack and his stereo and his box of wine. No, I wouldn't be alone. It would be Jack and Jill, and even if no one else came, the two of us would share in this together.

But then something happened.

People began to trickle in! Introductions were made and smiles exchanged. With each person that showed, my grin grew and my heart expanded. I felt at home within myself again. This is what I was born to do. Be among people. Share in their joy; their heartache.

People would ask whose idea it had been to throw this party and inevitably someone would steer the person in my direction and they would shake my hand or hug me and say thank you and what a wonderful idea it had been.

One woman even stood before us all and with a quiver in her voice said, my name is Carla*, I live in apartment 615 and I have been very lonely, please come visit me anytime. In that instant I knew that the whole thing had been worth it if only for meeting that woman and hearing those words. I have been longing to reach out to someone and share in their suffering if only to ease the burden, to make them laugh. And here she was. And for the rest of the night we stayed close to one another and I saw a glimmer in her eye as she continued to bring people my way to introduce me as Jill, THIS IS JILL, She is our hostess, this is her party.

People continued to come throughout the night, all ages, many nationalities, and each bringing a food or drink to add to the growing assortment on the table. With each new arrival my heart expanded and the warmth of happiness spread like a blush across my face. Sometime in the middle of the festivities I met the neighbor that lives directly across from me. I have only seen her on one occasion and even then she was quick to duck into her apartment and shut the door.

I said hello, touched her arm, and introduced myself. In the first few minutes of talking to her I learned that she had lost her family in Jerusalem only a few years before and as she told me this, tears began to fill her eyes and I felt the mountainous, cavernous sorrow that lived in her heart. I held her hand and asked her if it would be OK for me to come and visit her and she silently nodded. I learned that she is an artist and since moving back to the US, has become quite anti-social. I laughed and said," well, in that respect we share something."

When it was all said and done, I had been thanked more times than I can recall, drunk too much wine and learned a lot about people and myself. We're all lonely and we all benefit from the company of another but so many times we don't know how to reach out and make that connection. Sometimes it takes one of us, taking that step, flicking fear in the nose, and just doing it. And I did it. And I am glad.

There was a unanimous consensus among the group that the party had been a raging success and because of that, we should all meet on a monthly basis in the lobby. I agreed.

Whatever you do unto the least of these......

* I have changed her name to respect her privacy.


Aged One said...

Gosh!!! You always make me cry!

John Wesley once said, "Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can."

I think should Mr. Wesley have peered through the crystal sea and look in on that party he would have said, "Yes! Yes, I believe she gets it!"

Krista said...

Aww, this is such an incredible, heartwarming story! I wish my neighbors would get together and have a bash like that, but no, we sit back and watch each other shovel our driveways and act like we've never seen each other before.

You, and your party, are amazing. Good for you for reaching out to your neighbors like that, it sounds like everybody needed it.

Hugs from snowbound Philadelphia!

Lauren said...

This is incredible Jill! I know the feeling all-too-well of being lonely and missing the fun, meet everyone and plan everything life I had back East. This is going to inspire me to actually host the "housewarming" party I've been talking about since December. Now all I need to do is finish unpacking.

As always, your writing is beyond entertaining, inspiring, and a joy to read.

Amanda said...

While Caroline may be your inspiration, you my dear are mine. And, you are the same wonderful, bubbly, feisty friend I met so many years ago. You make me proud.

My joy, you have shared in, and my heartache as well. If I don't tell you enough, I adore you.

Freth :-p said...

I almost didn't read this ...

It was really worth it!

And the video was fun too!

Niki said...

You're awesome.
Thanks for reminding me how easy it is to miss the simple joys in life & how much more fun it is to appreciate life's little blessings with just a little effort & courage.

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