Haven't we heard the following statement many times: "Friends are the family that you choose"? Well, these words could not have been uttered in a more honest, completely truthful and heart-pounding way.
One of our "kid" brothers, member of our spiritual family, made a life choice this weekend and committed to living in community. He is from Ohio, but friends and "family members" came from Hawaii, Texas, New York. Blessings and congratulations were sent virtually from Africa, Italy, Ireland, Korea, India... From all over the world, family members sent their love.
Like many conferences, even special family milestone occasions, like a wedding, have a prep day of sorts. Relatives and out of towners are arriving all throughout the day- and night! After the prep day, there's a pre-party of sorts, then of course, THE party and duh, the after party.
My friends and I, my local family by choice, are no exception. I am blessed to be part of a global, extended spiritual family that has been by my side, for better or worse... most visibly, for worse. I love them for it.
The pre-party took some of us, after a long, very long, day of work to impatiently gather awaiting for the arrival of more brothers and sisters in friendship. Yes, a space to gather can be a kitchen, a dining room, a porch. Our place of gathering, this time around is our own version of Cheers! A place where when you walk in, everybody knows your name. We move from a small table to an even bigger table, as more friends' arrival times begin to fall one on top of the other. Do an about face and the tenth person has walked in. YEAH! Smiles, cheers, claps, pure joy! We all came together to celebrate our brother, our mission, our friendships and commitments to our community. BIG smile :-D
New faces, old faces, new friendships were born this weekend, old friendships were strengthened. All with the power and faith to last forever.
The celebration and AFTER party: an opportunity to witness over 100 people who love, who believe and who have hope. Friends of friends who know us better than we think we know ourselves. At times friends, with a wink of an eye, share a moment, an inside joke, a memory, deliciously savored just by them, because it was their moment; their memory. Don't you love those?? Like your own set of clues to a hidden treasure only you two, or three, or twelve, know how to figure out. Off you go, together, on a treasure hunt. How cool are those friendships!
Now of course, we can't keep some of our closest friends to ourselves. That is the unfortunate selfish part of each of us that wants to keep our special friends to ourselves. Well, we can't some times. We must share our loves, our friends, our soul mates, with the world. What we are left with, is the joy of the memories and the friendships that live and will continue to live on as long as God allows it... or allows us to remember.
At the end of the weekend, much like Cinderella at the stroke of midnight, it's pumpkin time. Reality check. Reality bites. We must say goodbye. One more gathering, please. There has to be plenty of leftovers from the night before. Yes, there are!! Let's stretch this celebration of friendship as long as we can. Wait, what? Oh yeah, you have a plane to catch. Tomorrow's Monday and some of us have to work. OK. I'll bite. I have to say good bye. Reality does bite and it bit hard.
While all of this took place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and I found myself driving back and forth from the church, retreat center, community and home, the "Les Miserables" soundtrack played in my car. One of the songs sums up the weekend for me and inspired the title of this entry. Some of you will recognize it right away and even though, my friends might think the title "Drink with me" is the reason why I think this song is perfect, you are wrong. This weekend is beautifully summed up in the following lines and with them I leave you and I dedicate them to my friends, my family!
"At the shrine of friendship, never say die. Let the wine of friendship never run dry. Here's to them and here's to you"