The hardest paragraph for me to construct in an essay is the introductory one. I am cautious with my creations. I figure with openings, excitement is high, contentions are low and like my tenth grade world history teacher preached: “You never get a second chance at a first impression.” Ten years later the exhortation holds less weight. I’ve found expectant first impressions coincide with all sorts of judgement, and eager first impressionists have a tendency towards convincing masquerades. The collision of the two, if you ask me, is altogether futile: “Here, let me accept you for who are not.” Ex-hausting.
Regardless, the idea of heartfelt beginnings still moves me more fully than the idea of completion, or to a fault, being. Restlessness. Adventure. Movement (Commitment issues). When I hear “All Aboard?” I take care to make sure I’m on it– usually just in the nick of time, a little frantic, but shortly thereafter quite convinced that yes, this is where I belong after all.
Captured by beginnings, I remember the way books start. Not only can I quote Jane Austen’s “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” all too readily, but there is something to Koslow’s, “When I imagined my funeral, this wasn’t what I had in mind” (The Late, Lamented Molly Marx) or Nylon’s “A warm day in December, 2007 proved me nuts, and an idiot, again” (Guts). Just last week, I glided through Barnes and Noble as I often do, and this one-liner gripped me: “Face it: creative people had lonely childhoods.” I couldn’t tell you the title or the author, and this particular opener came back to me most fully just this past week as I sat and listened to Daryl Scott, the father of Rachel Scott recount the day he found out his daughter was murdered in the Columbine High School Massacre.
Mr. Scott spoke about his daughter, her death and her memory with such candor and grace, that the whole symposium moved me to tears (yup eight straight hours- mascara, down my face). Given the way he spoke of her, I could tell that at seventeen, she was an “old soul.” More distinctly, a sweet young spirit through which the delights of youth and vitality were not lived out vainly as they so often are, but instead with great intention and fervor. I just hope I might live into such a condition someday.
Even ten years after her tragic death stories of companionship, camaraderie, service and friendship still float in. “Rachel was my only friend,” says one boy with special needs, “we didn’t hang out a whole lot, but I knew she cared. She always patted me on the back in the hallway, and that just meant a lot.” It seemed that her very presence ministered those words we all long to hear: “You are not alone.” “Her killers,” her father explained, “were brilliant and authentic and not “bad” kids, but they were very alone.” In the midst of master-minding the shooting, Eric Harris wrote in one of his journals something to the effect of: “I am hoping that no one reaches out to me, because they might just pay attention and things might change.”
So here is my plea to myself and to you and to all the people in between– the ones who clamor into the limelight, and the ones who fall off-stage: Let us care for one another! Please? Our individualized and driven plans that vibrate our Blackberrys and determine our cares are really quite weak. We just love them, that’s all. Geesh, I cringed a little bit when I threw away my 2009 planner. It’s not my diary, for crying out loud, it’s most basically a recount of my productivity and as a good Westernized, Americanized, Capitalism-ized citizen, I think it should be sacred.
Heavens to Betsy. Someone please help me to love my neighbors and not my schemes. Help me to forgo the striving and the control and the go-go-go lest I forget to pat my friends and Rachel Scott’s friends on the back. They might not be in the way, persase, but they are definitely out of the way. The way. My way. Same thing. (Kidding).
Are we strong enough to need each other? To comitt to each other? To give in to each other? To co-author entire chapters and stories and series, rather than abandon each other halfway down page one? How else do we choose each other? And if we do not choose each other? Than we are right back where we started. Alone, unchosen, clamoring like we know where we are going, when we really just want to be in the arms of a friend.
For the sake of our souls, swallow our pride, let us be friends. Community kind of friends. If that exists. I’m still figuring it out. Beginnings are sweet and unexpected but it is walking through the nitty gritty that gets rid of the lonely. And if you can get through chapter one of the nitty gritty, you can get through chapter two and on like that. And unlike the starts and finishes of books– when you get to the ending, community begets new beginnings. New beginnings with old friends? Surely this is the stuff of life.