Friday, August 22, 2008

Day 3

Yesterday was my third day of meetings this week. It was a different venue with different motivation for gathering, but there was overlap among the participants from earlier in the week. I waited to see if one person on whom I had inflicted my company in those earlier meetings would acknowledge our acquaintance. He did not. Sigh.

Lost in the crowd again. It was another "Day 1." Only this time, there was no "Day 2." Once again, I inflicted too many words on people who don't know me and don't care to know me or be known by me. Why can't I be content to shut my mouth and go into an observation mode, slipping in and out as someone unknown in such settings? What prompts me to talk at length to people who have no interest in hearing my words? Why can't I bottle those words up and pour them out later on my long-suffering blog readers? Oh, wait, maybe that's what this is. Maybe I didn't use up as many words as it seemed. The quantity may have been magnified by their failure to find receptive places to land.

I decided I didn't like the look of my chosen accommodations for the night and realized that I was more awake at the end of the day than the beginning and might be able to drive the three hours it would take to get home if I skipped out just a little early. So I cancelled my reservation, relieved to not have to spend another night on the road.

With an hour before I planned to leave, someone suddenly appeared at my side and announced that she was sharing my table at dinner because we needed to talk about a project of which we are both a part. What a pleasant surprise! We did eat together and had a very profitable exchange. Then I left. I hadn't registered for the optional second day of this event because the topics being discussed weren't pertinent to my situation. So I left my new-found friend behind until our paths cross again another day in another place.

I'm ready to stay home in my small town for a while before heading back out for further days of obscurity.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Day 2

OK, so I headed out this morning prepared to resist the urge to inflict myself on my companions in training. But as I walked into the building, I received a friendly greeting from one of the hosts for the event. I returned her greeting and headed to the training room. I chose a seat in the back corner and pulled out some documentation to read. A couple of people filled in the seats next to me. One of them greeted me and introduced herself -- also from the host location. A couple of other people I remembered from a previous meeting but hadn't seen yesterday also acknowledged our previous encounter with a friendly greeting.

All this friendliness messed up my resolve to sit in my little corner with my mouth shut. After all, I hadn't resolved to be standoffish, only to avoid annoying people who were otherwise occupied.

I have been here before. Two days of meetings. The first day I sink further and further into loneliness as I fail to find companionship among the crowd. The second day, the sea of faces resolves into individuals, some of whom are actually quite friendly.

I wonder if there's a way to go only for the second day of these type of sessions.


In a few moments I will head out for a day of anonymity. I'm taking some training on new software with my library peers. Only 17 libraries are represented but mine must be unique in having only one representative. The rest of the group seems to have arrived in clusters.

It's odd to me to spend hour after hour in a group where no one knows me or cares to know me, where speaking serves only to annoy people by detracting from the business at hand and interfering with the dynamics of their group.

This is an interesting contrast to my regular life. Last Friday I walked into a local business. I'm in there several times a year to pick up hardware items but not enough to know the younger employees who cycle through the clerking positions of this large family-owned business. For this visit, I needed a billing statement to replace one that somehow disappeared into the clutter at home. When I stated my business, the young man behind the counter verified my husband's name. I was thoroughly impressed. It has been years since I have bought anything there on credit. (I was actually seeking the balance on the church account.) My infrequent visits generally involve anonymous cash transactions. I can't imagine how he put me together with my husband's name. As someone who has to come up with names to match faces at the library in the absence of library cards, I know how difficult that is. I'm curious as to what past encounter fixed my identity in the mind of this young man. Should I know him? How is he related to the patriarch of the business who wandered out a few minutes later and chatted with me.

To know and be known. That is inherent to small town living. But today I will be unknown and uninteresting to a group of 60 people. It messes with my self-esteem to be so easily dismissed as not worth knowing. And not simply not worth knowing, but also not worth being known by. Any interest I show in my peers today is unlikely to generate their favor. I spent the entire day with them yesterday and never moved beyond polite responses.

I often pray that I may be a blessing to those around me. It's a little disturbing to think that the best way to accomplish that today may be to stay out of the way and keep my mouth shut.

Oh well, I'll be back in my small town tomorrow where there is no lack of opportunity to be a blessing by actually getting involved in people's lives rather than simply by staying out of their way. Life is good on Main Street, USA.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Response to a book challenge

By day, I am a librarian. I don't get into that too much here. However, I read a letter this morning and want to be able to find it again. This is basically a way of bookmarking it. It is a rather lengthy response to someone who protested the presence in the library of a picture book involving gay marriage.

It's interesting to me that the social grouping with which I most identify myself - the church - would tend to be on the side of the protest in this case rather than the measured response. Sometimes I wonder why I associate myself with organized religion. (For some ideas in that area, you can look here.) But I also wonder what percentage of people who radically follow the teachings of Jesus Christ are truly committed to the position of homophobia so often encountered in the church and "Christian" media. Some of the "ain't it awful" statistics such people share with us about the decay of moral absolutes in the church seem to indicate that it might not be so ubiquitous as it may sometimes appear.

Don't get me wrong here. I'm not an activist in favor of gay rights. I'm more in favor of people, of dealing with people as wondrous creations rather than putting labels on them and discarding them as not fit for society because they don't fit the standard definition of "normal." I ache for those who have been told through various means that God hates something so integral to who and what they are as their sexuality. And, having substantial exposure to the Bible itself rather than simply those who would tell me what it says, I suspect that many from the gay community are entering the kingdom of God ahead of the religious people who are heading up the fight for "family values." (If you want some background for this suspicion, check out the gospel according to Matthew: chapter 21, verse 31 and context.)

Lord, save us from the hopeless quest of making the world inoffensive to the self-righteous.