Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"You Sho' Can't Choose Your Family"

I’ve been feeling lonely today. I walked downtown to run an errand and saw girlfriends chatting on their lunch breaks, eavesdropped on business conversations between gray-haired men in fancy suits, and heard the Chicago teachers chanting in solidarity “Hey hey, ho ho, Emmanuel has got to go.” But I walked the busy streets alone and came home to my big dog in my little apartment. With no one else around, I decided to ask Google about my feelings. I typed in a few key words and it suggested “Are people lonelier today?” Apparently so.

I usually don’t ask Google such existential questions. Whenever I feel a bout of loneliness coming on, I always end up searching for something else online: churches. Synagogues (as Carole Radziwill would say: I’m Jewish by injection), spiritual centers, places of worship - to me, they’re all community centers. They foster a sense of belonging to a group. So when I walk by a church on a Sunday morning and see the congregation walking through its doors, I find myself desiring a similar kind of inclusion. I google churches when I feel alone because they’re places I know I’d be welcome.

I’m not religious, though. I haven’t gone to church regularly since grade school. Ian and I tried the Sunday morning routine a few times since we moved to the city, but it never stuck. We attended a few services at a United Church of Christ in Lincoln Park and loved the sermons, but the demographic of the congregation just wasn’t a good fit.  We even sat in on a Roman Catholic service in a gorgeous, high-vaulted cathedral once.  But with all the hand-movements and frenetic rituals, we definitely felt like the outcasts at the Cool Kids Club. So we’re still urban secularists, but on days like this I wish I wasn’t.

My religious community longings surfaced a few weeks ago when I was shopping for a birthday card for my mom. She joined the Catholic Church her in 50s (a statistical anomaly I’m sure) and now knows all those fun hand gestures and kneeling rituals. Because she's religious, and because I'm God-curious, I decided to peruse the "Birthday-Religious" cards. I bought the one that made me tear up in the middle of CVS aisle 7.

I’m sure it’s normal, even healthy, to feel sporadic loneliness like I feel today. Like all things in life, it helps us appreciate the emotional connections we do have with people. Like this greeting card writer knew, the most important people in our lives often belong to a group we don’t choose to be a part of: our families.

“...the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit... is of great worth in God’s sight.” ~1 Peter 3:4

A prayer, Mom, for the blessing of you.
Thank you, Lord, for my beautiful mother
For the love she always gives me
And her friendship that is never failing,
For her kind eyes that see the best in me
And her gentle wisdom that carries me through,
For her prayers that lift me up
And the dreams she holds in her heart for me,
For the happy memories we’ve made together
And all the hugs and smiles we’ve yet to share -
I am forever grateful

More than my prayers could express,
more than my heart could ever say -
I’m so thankful to God for entrusting me to the love
Of the world’s most wonderful mother -