While vacuuming, I thought about Sharon and remembered her comment on one of my blog posts, which included a quote about friends and what they bring out in us. I thought: wouldn't it be worthwhile to sit back and mindfully consider what my closest friends bring to my life, and what I hope they will bring out in me? The sad-little, tired-little hampster wheels in my head started spinning clickety-click, and I turned my mind toward a handful of close friends and discovered I could very easily identify what each brings to my life, and what I hope (s)he will bring out in me. Suddenly, I was filled with joy in thinking of these friends and what a blessing they are, and it became hard for me to feel even a little bit sad. So this started to seem like more of a necessary than just worthwhile endeavor.
I am going to start with Sharon because she inspired me this morning, but I want to say, also, that I find my friend Anjie a source of inspiration. Anjie has--for awhile, now--been blogging about people who have touched her life: not in any particular order, just as they come to mind. The scope of her project is much more comprehensive than mine; I will be focusing on close friends, only. (If I write a blog post about you, I will e-mail it to you, for approval, before publishing, so no worries!)
First, the quote from C.S. Lewis, which Sharon shared with me: "In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out."
Sharon and the Gift of Listening
The first time I met Sharon, she was wearing a funny hat. She really was: the PCC women's ministry had set up a tea (in the oldest sense of the word: think kettles and fragile teacups) in this shop in Powhatan, and--as we joined the event--we were encouraged to pick out a hat to wear. (I'm laughing because my beloved will shudder when he reads this, as well as any nurses or elementary-school teachers who happen by this blog post. But I've had head lice so many times in my life that I am less than terrified by them. Anyway.) So Sharon was wearing a funny hat, and she has this wonderful speaking voice that I just love and try to emulate, sometimes, especially when I am tired but trying to make nice with my babies. It's kind of like Marge Simpson's voice but much less raspy and more lilting and sweet, and I want very badly to Krazy Glue it inside my empty almond shells so that--whenever I feel sad--I can crack it out, hear it, and feel instantly much better. The effect of Sharon's smiling mouth speaking Sharon-sounding words from under a funny hat is just something I've never forgotten, which is saying something, because I have a tendency to forget things.
The next time I remember seeing Sharon, I almost didn't recognize her. She wasn't wearing the hat, and it completely messed me up! I had sent out a prayer request, and she had called and invited me to lunch. Until recently--when I asked Sharon, and she reminded me--I couldn't remember the prayer request, but what I have never forgotten is how I walked into lunch feeling like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders and how I left feeling like a completely different person. Honestly, I had never before experienced anything like it. I knew God had sent her and worked through her, because I had been praying like crazy, and--in the short time Sharon and I spent together--I experienced relief from incredible, mind-bending, soul-sucking grief. It was a miracle!
Years went by, and Sharon and I served on the same team at church and, at one point, participated in the same Bible study. She bought cookies from me and sent gifts to my baby showers. I ran into her here and there: meetings, the Y. But we didn't really have another long conversation until she brought me a turkey and avacado sandwich after Charleigh was born, and it seems like we've talked up a storm ever since. We've talked on the phone; through facebook, e-mail, and text; while walking all over Cartersville (Sharon pushes the double stroller!); up and down I-81; during a slumber party of sorts, at my Aunt Carolyn's house; and in my kitchen.
Sharon has an incredible gift of listening and making me feel really heard. She knows just what to say, what not to say, and when to say, or not say, it. Also, she has a knack for asking the perfect questions: questions that prompt honest and thoughtful reponses. So--by the end of our conversations--I find I've somehow stumbled into (or at least closer to) answers. Then Sharon tries to make me feel clever, but I know the truth.
And I just know that--at this very moment--Sharon could be wearing that funny hat and standing on someone else's doorstep with a turkey and avacado sandwich, offering to wash dishes or walk a baby, all the while saying perfect things with her lovely, comfortable voice. Because that's the person God made Sharon to be, and that's the work God has given Sharon to do.
What Sharon may not know is that I am trying to learn from her. I very much want to lift weight off others' shoulders as Sharon has lifted weight off mine. What a gift she has to walk into someone's day and--in hearing--really, really help!
If I practice long enough, maybe I can someday be the friend to Sharon that she has been to me. Then I won't have to worry that, like Nanny McPhee, Sharon will go away if I want her but do not need her.
I think I'll start shopping for a funny hat.