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I’m a bit depressed this morning. Normally I make an effort not to let the ugliness and destructiveness of the news get me down. But the world weighs heavily on my shoulders today: feckless actions by Macron, the usual contradictions by Trump, efforts to pass anti-Semitic/anti-Israel bills in Congress (which I will write about later). I can’t find the space to let in the joy and knowledge of blessings. And then I remember that in one hour, I will do something good.
On Monday mornings I visit with my friend, Earl. He is 88 years old. I’ve written about him before—his concerns about racism (he’s black and liberal), Donald Trump, the state of the world.
Our time together has taken on a familiar, comfortable pattern. I arrive precisely at 10:30am; sometimes when I knock, he’s already waiting at the door and playfully knocks back. As I enter the house, he leans down from his 6foot-plus height and we kiss each other on the cheek. As I rest my hands on his shoulders, I can feel his thinness and fragility.
We head into the living room. On our way, I often look at the art he and his wife display: African art, mostly. One piece shows a black man shot, laying on the sidewalk. We sit on the sofa nearby. I set my cell phone for 20 minutes of meditation. The fountain in the pool provides background music. The phone occasionally rings. We breathe in our friendship and pleasure of being together. And then we talk.
You would think that Earl would be overly absorbed with his struggles with his health, which are major. Instead, he wants to talk about the dissension in the world and the inability of people to reflect on their own lives.
For many months we’ve been discussing a book by Pema Chodron called When Things Fall Apart. I selected the book just before Earl’s health took a major downturn; we both agreed it would be helpful for both of us to share our thoughts on her ideas.
The most significant message she offers is to try to deal with life deeply, whatever comes our way. No hiding in a closet; no avoidance; no denial. We often mix our intellectual ideas with reflections on our own lives; there’s always plenty to share.
Earl rarely talks about his health; he wants to talk about ideas. He wants to be heard. He wants to learn. Fortunately, I want to do all those things, too.
When I get ready to leave, Earl almost always tells me how grateful he is for our time together. I insist that I love it as much as he does. He slowly walks me to the door, we kiss each other’s cheek, I step out the door and wave good-bye. He waves back.
When I leave, I know that the world will look just a bit brighter.