About ten years back I heard a piece on NPR that stuck with me. It was part of a series called “This I Believe,” which asked listeners to talk about the core values that define their lives. In one episode, entitled “Always Go to the Funeral,” a woman named Deirdre Sullivan shared her struggle to understand why her father was so adamant about making their family attend other people’s funerals, even those they weren’t overly close to, like the service for her fifth grade teacher, Miss Emerson. As a young woman, this adamance made little sense to Deirdre. It was awkward at the funeral home. She never felt she knew the people well enough to attend the service, she wasn’t family and sometime the deceased were just acquaintances like the butcher or a man from down the block. Words of condolence often felt inauthentic in the face of others’ grief.
Yet, as a grown woman, Dierdre reflected wryly that “but, for that deeply weird expression of sympathy delivered 20 years ago, Miss Emerson’s [the teacher’s] mother still remembers my name and always says hello with tearing eyes.”
This may seem like a strange or even morbid place to begin our March blog focus on connectedness. But connectedness boils down, after all, to showing up. Many of us already know the benefits of coming together with other people – at church, at a yoga class or gym, at a birthday party or cook out – but what about connecting, like Sullivan describes, outside our comfort zone?
One of the core values of Live54218’s new community initiative, The GROW Project, is connecting, or in other words “showing up.” It’s about showing up for others to help make their lives better, whether that’s through being a friend, showing up at a public meeting to help a person or a group solve a problem, or simply just reaching out to understand more about how our neighbors live. In Sullivan’s words:
“Always go to the funeral” means that I have to do the right thing when I really, really don’t feel like it. I have to remind myself of it when I could make some small gesture, but I don’t really have to and I definitely don’t want to. I’m talking about those things that represent only inconvenience to me, but the world to the other guy. You know, the painfully under-attended birthday party. The hospital visit during happy hour… In my humdrum life, the daily battle hasn’t been good versus evil. It’s hardly so epic. Most days, my real battle is doing good versus doing nothing.”
When his time came, Deirdre’s father’s funeral was packed.
Connect. This we believe. Stay tuned for more discussion and opportunity to connect with us in March!