The three youngest boys cleared the dishes and leftovers from dinner, while seven of us remained at the table, too deep in conversation for our own good. You could hear the dishes being slammed into the dishwasher as the boys did what was asked of them and nothing more. Been there.
Fabien, one of the parents, started the conversation. Before long, two sets of parents, two teenagers and I found ourselves chewing on issues related to gender, sexuality, politics, the arts, healthcare, poverty and aging. Guess which category I represented?
Two families, introduced through medical school and linked by friendship and a shared passion for making a difference in the world, stayed at table to talk and listen. Generations linked by love and mutual respect. It did me good to be part of the give and take, though early on I mostly listened and found myself connecting more with Lily and Ben, teenage realists and idealists. Hope spreaders.
When the conversation shifted to problems associated with an aging population, challenges to Social Security, healthcare and where to put all the old folks, I tried to sit taller, look more alert. “We have limited healthcare resources that are stretched thin with extended lifespans of an aging population. We have moral questions on where to invest the money on old or young. We have people crowded in nursing homes or aging in place.” That’s when I raised my hand. I represented that specific category, “aging in place.” The table erupted in laughter and we shifted to a less divisive topic, human sexuality.
It’s good to stay at the table with family, friends and folks who believe and think thoughts sometimes different from the way I think and believe. It’s never easy or comfortable but always important. Jud loved those times, especially ones that made me squirm. Growth’s never easy or safe.
This morning I read several verses from Proverbs 19 in The Message, so many related to our table talk the other night.
“Loners who care only for themselves spit on the common good.”
“Answering before listening is both stupid and rude.”
“Wise men and women are always learning, always listening for fresh insights.”
As I write, I’ve spotted no Cardinals outside the window. Maybe they don’t nest in this part of California. It’s colorful enough. It does alarm me that I’ve noticed some large black birds. Not pretty, more like birds of prey. Do they know something I don’t?
Growing up in the south, we sang, “I’ll Fly Away, oh glory.” My Danish grandmother, Elise Jensen, loved slapping out a beat on the old upright, as Auntie Joyce played the piano and sang along. But thinking about those birds, another image surfaced of being picked up by their talons, flying off “to a land on God’s celestial shore.” To be sure, the issue’s more about where than how.
Better to age in place, keep growing, sit tall and look alert, until God shows up and off we go, however.
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