Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Touched from afar

Sunday I was at the Rogers Ranch community pool with the kids. I was tucked away under the shelter of the pavilion trying to hide myself from the searing solar rays that we have had lately. From the shade I was watching the kids and few other families that were at the pool that day. Traci, her mom (Karen) and the three kids (Jack, Isa, and Ava) were at the pool with her. They were in the shallow end, at the steps that enter the pool. They had been there for what seemed like a rather long time just cooling themselves in the water.

A woman that had also been at the pool with her daughters got up from her seat and went over to Traci to introduce herself and let Traci know that she and her family had been thinking of the Lopez family and praying for them all. She was very respectful and clearly did not want to intrude on their family time and tried to separate herself from the conversation rather quickly, so as to not offend Traci. But the conversation continued for a short while.

Just after their conversation she came over to me and introduced herself, “Hi, I am Kim.” After exchanging our introductions our conversation quickly changed to something that we had in common… Ava.

Kim and her family had not had the priviledge that I have had of seeing Ava’s recovery in a more personal light and from so near. It is almost something that you take for granted… being so close… seeing her so often… seeing the small gains that she makes… seeing and becoming accustomed to the physical deficits that remain. It is so easy to forget how many people continue to follow from afar. It is so easy to forget how many people are emotionally invested in Ava’s recovery but do not have the luxury of getting to spend time with her or them… either because they lack the finances or time to be able to travel here eventhough they feel emotionally close enough… or because they are here but do not feel emotionally close enough to the family to “intrude,” so they watch from afar.

Traci’s family, Manny’s family, Larry, the Millers, the Lawrences, the Meiers, and countless others are examples of the former case.

Kim is an example of the later case. Someone that is here locally and who’s family is emotionally invested in the story of Ava, but they lack the familiarity with the Lopez family to openly address them under nearly any circumstance. So the relationship stays as it is… distant… watching from afar.

Kim and I, and later Traci and I, discussed that herein lies the problem. The relationship stays distant because we are unwilling to breach the distance that separates us. Don’t get me wrong. Not for a minute do I think that the gap continues out of rudeness on anyone’s part. As a matter of fact, it is quite the opposite. It is the politeness of others that prevents the gap from being bridged.

It is similar to hearing of a neighbor who loses a loved one, is diagnosed with cancer or other serious illness, or some other tragedy that has fallen upon them. It seems to me that when people experience such adversity is when they are the loneliest and need the most interaction with others. Yet we avoid them. We are so fearful of offending their tender emotions that we avoid the discussion entirely… not knowing what to say. All the while they just want to talk to someone about it.

It is amazing to me how easy it is to be therapeutic to yourself and someone else by just caring enough to let them know that you are there and that you want to talk to them.

Kim was so kind and apologetic for “intruding,” but little does she know that it is that very conversation that may have provided just the lift that Traci needed that day.

Traci and I spoke of it later and agreed that the self introduction on Kim’s part was not seen as rudeness, but rather as kindness. And further interactions of this sort will only serve to make our communities more friendly and secure.

As Kim and I discussed the issue further we mentioned that a relationship must start somewhere. On Sunday her relationship with Traci and the Lopez family began. For all we know they will continue to be dear friends 40 years from now, and it all began with one woman having courage enough to breach the emotional divide at the Rogers Ranch pool, and one woman being receptive to it. This is again one of the lessons that Ava’s story can teach us.

A recurrent theme has been our emotional availability and interconnectedness with others. We just have to open our eyes to it and be there emotionally to let it happen. Sometimes we’ll initiate it… sometimes we’ll receive it… but both have to be there for it to happen. Make yourself available to others and make this a better place.

Ava, the party waits for you.


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