I had just put my havarti and sage egg sandwich and enormous cup of tea down on the big, wooden Urban Farmhouse table. My breakfast companions were laughing and conversing, peeling off our coats and scarves on this chilly late autumn morning in the midst of downtown hustle and bustle. Every single one of us at this table has multiple places she or he could be other than dining here together right now, I thought. One of our usual members couldn’t make it and had sent an email to say she had accidentally double booked herself; as if reading my mind, one colleague remarked, “she must have made a mistake for sure, then…usually she is triple booked!”
Just as my colleague Steve, seated to my left, stood up to retrieve his coffee order someone made a remark about a pastry that was so good they thought they had died and gone to heaven. He quipped back, “I’m Jewish…this is as good as it gets…so enjoy!”
At that moment, the singular beauty of this setting came into perfect clarity for me. The collective wisdom and intellect gathered at the table is astounding. Any one of us are scheduling appointments on our calendars several weeks out, but today we are all simply here. Present. Connecting. Coffee and tea and farm fresh eggs. I agree with Steve: this is, in my own faith language, living on earth as it is in heaven.
We were all brought together initially by one common member of the group who knew us all individually. She is visionary, fun, and delightfully filled with stories (note: she is an anthropologist, so her stories are as brilliant and interesting as she is). We have a couple physicians of different specialties, public policy experts, epidemiologists, an anthropologist, public health researchers and of course a social work academic (yours truly). While we have discovered overlap, none of us are presently working together on any projects in particular. Our goal is simple: we commit to eat together once a month, breakfast or lunch. No agenda. No distractions or multi-tasking. We are simply being ourselves as human beings and scholars and seeing what emerges from our collective togetherness. It’s a novel yet ancient idea, glorious in its simplicity: we thrive on whatever emerges from within our togetherness.
Our thriving today brought us closer to creating a repository of thousands of cases of data that could be publicly accessed, problem solving a dilemma involving gender recognition and institutional sexism, and comparing stories of ceiling cave-ins and water damage that made us realize we are more alike than different; every bit as much ordinary humans as we are accomplished academics.
Every time I glanced up at the large windows flanking our breakfast gathering, I saw these graceful paper cranes dangling, mid-flight, from complex paper cuttings. Prosperity, simplicity, complexity, soaring, suspended, independent, together…these cranes told a story in paper that seemed to mirror this group gathered in spirit over coffee. They reminded me of how I thrive in the midst of complex intellectual curiosity and the simple authenticity of human connection. I was grateful to feel it, to experience that moment of heaven on earth when we are seen and known and jointly living, thriving, being in common communion together.
Yes, I thrive in moments of the divine ordinary.
For this, today’s small point of light, I am grateful.
In response to the AdventWord global advent calendar project with the Society for St. John the Evangelist. Today’s word: #thrive. Follow the worldwide advent calendar at: http://www.aco.org/adventword.cfm