When my daughter nurses, she holds out her little hand—outstretched toward me—until I stick out my finger. Then she grasps it tightly. Isn’t that all of us? Holding out our hands, waiting for safety, for nourishment, for comfort, for another person to be with us? Isn’t that our way of seizing the moment, grasping at the richness of a life lived together?
When she holds out her hand, I am reminded by that same longing in myself to live richly with others—to touch and be touched, to hold and be held, to connect. A life lived in a silo can never be a rich life, for richness comes in those moments of shared life, shared community, shared meaning.
We are meaning-making creatures by nature. But meaning isn’t created in isolation. It is created because of and sometimes in spite of community. But never alone. God created companionship because it was “not good” for humans to be alone. It is a crucial aspect of living richly, living our lives in the fullness created for all in good times and in bad.
When I think of community and what it means to live richly together, I often think of my little sister. Though we now live a world apart, distance has never prevented closeness. Many years ago, my sister and I had determined that we were going to take this awesome backpacking trip across Europe while we were both singled and unsettled. At the time, I was 23 and she was 18.
But, as usual, with the best laid plans of mice and men, it didn’t happen. I had gotten into do graduate studies at a seminary on the East Coast, so our European backpacking adventure morphed into a ten-day road trip in a Corolla with one other friend, and everything I owned. We were to go from Washington State to New Jersey in one fell swoop in late June. Of course, this wasn’t quite what either of us had in mind, but those moments I will treasure forever.
Our first night in Yellowstone, the three of us decided we had a hankering for popcorn. So we built a campfire, and (thinking it as good as Jiffy pop) pierced through a bag of microwave popcorn on a stick and roasted it like a hot dog. You would think that three young women capable of procuring wood and starting a fire while camping in the bush would be more competent than this, and perhaps less silly. But it seemed to come as a surprise when the bag fell off the stick, landed in the fire, and we danced around dodging hot little kernels flying across the campsite. I would like to say that alcohol was to blame for this absurdity, but we were completely sober! We laughed hysterically at our culinary blunder as we ate dirty popcorn off the ground.
Living richly rarely comes at times of well thought-out plans. It comes when living in the moment. That memory would have been ridiculous and sad if I had been alone, but somehow togetherness transforms the pitiful into the legendary.
Other moments of richness from that trip included getting blocked inside a public restroom by a buffalo, passing through a “no through route” sign only to almost end up driving off of a cliff and taking a 5 hour detour instead, painting our toe nails and hanging them out the window to dry while driving (passengers only), eating the best biscuits in the country (Tennessee), visiting the only building in the U.S. made entirely of corn (thank you South Dakota), and driving in circles on the five way roundabouts in D.C. until we were dizzy.
The moral of the story may be that my sister and I should not be allowed to travel together. Or it might be that living richly means living into the weird and absurd moments of life where chronos is suspended and where kairos supersedes.