My Five Friends … September 15, 2012

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‘Twas another glorious night spent in small-town America, sharing with her fine citizens.

Coloma, Michigan–proudly displaying its Subway restaurant in the middle of the town square as confirmation of the presence of civilization. About a half a hundred souls made their way out to see me shake my reed in the wind. (Or perhaps most of them were there to hear Jan play her reed on her wind instrument…)But they came.

I have been doing this so many years that it has granted me the age, grace and courtesy to understand the validity of how things work without “kicking against the pricks”–because I will give you a quick definition of stupidity: stupidity is when a God-given reality is explained to you in detail and you stubbornly choose to believe it is merely an opinion.

Here’s what I’ve learned: there are five types of people who show up for everything in life. I am sure that your deeper insight may expand it to seven or boil it down to three. More power to you. Regarding this quintet of human possibilities, though, I have learned to love all of them. Obviously, I am drawn to the more affectionate members of the family, but my understanding of the others grants me the patience and general sweetness to include them.

All five of them were there last night at the First United Methodist Church. May I introduce you to them?

1. Mr., Miss or Mrs. I Am Here and Willing. These are people who show up bringing their own energy. They are the lovely folks you wish to sit next to in an airplane, who happen to have granola bars in their possession when you find out you’re stuck on the tarmac for an extra hour. They are willing to share. These folks require no hats, whistles or cake to have a party. They have made the journey with a sense of anticipation, with their own enthusiasm which will render the evening profitable even if the offering from the stage is less than professional.  They applaud dancing monkeys because the little fellas “try hard.”

2. This particular group I have dubbed I Am Here and Curious. They have left their homes because some little piece of advertising about the event has caught their interest, and they’re willing to come out to see if it was worth their time. They are not unfriendly, but they certainly don’t bring their own power boost. They are similar to that used car that the salesperson touts “only needs a good jump start, but runs great.” They are the kind of people who sit on the airplane, seeing that someone brought granola bars, and swear to do it next time, although they are destined to surely forget.

3. I Am Here Because I Am Always Here. “This is where I live, this is where I come, this is the source of my loyalty, I am not so sure I understand what I am about to experience, it doesn’t matter, I learned as a young human to show up or face the punishment. I am neither enthralled nor in agony–just seeking my gold star for being present. I am always a bit bewildered because my neutrality is viewed as negative instead of as an apathetic adaptation to my ongoing low expectation.”

4. I Am Here to Watch–with absolutely no intention of becoming involved. Matter of fact, I wish the whole event was on closed-circuit TV in a room containing an excellent candy machine. I think that I’m at home, so at the least urging of my whim, I may arise several times to go to the bathroom or check out what’s going on in the narthex. I am not negative, I just have developed a highly polished form of indifference.

5. And finally, I Am Here to Critique. Perhaps I watch too many episodes of America’s Got Talent or American Idol. I am under the conviction that the world is waiting for my scorecard on every issue, so rather than allowing my emotions to become involved, I will sit back, hand on my chin or arms across my chest, and watch from a distance so as to be able to give an impartial representation when asked about the procedure. I have no motivation to be critical–unless it ends up being as mediocre as I fear.

There you go. This is the way human beings function–and it doesn’t matter if you’re in the work place, the church, a concert, a party, a meeting or even around the family dinner table–you will see these five incarnations blossoming in front of your eyes. The problem, though, is that often intelligent people become aware of these variations, but rather than having tender mercy, kindness, humor and gentleness towards the less involved members, they become cynical, angry, challenging and even mean to them.

I am professional enough that I don’t peer at the critics in the audience, nor do I gear in on those who are trying to protect their hearts by perching their arms in front of them. But I also don’t allow myself to become overly giddy about those who are arriving with a pre-smile and a jolt of excitement. My job is to give my talent in excellence–and find a way to love everyone in the room.

That’s why I titled this essay My Five Friends.

  • Because Friend 1, who is here and willing, doesn’t really need me to do much except avoid dashing ever-present hope.
  • Buddy 2 requires information concerning my mission and purpose in order to turn curiosity into an actual level of interest.
  • Comrade 3 merely requires that I establish that I have arrive at his domain where he frequently resides–to edify instead of destroy.
  • Acquaintance 4 is often won over by a bit of surprise and flash–allowing for a smirk or even a smile to pass across a stony countenance.
  • And Adversary 5? Well, the best I can do with this one is to hope that he or she walks out thinking that this was one of the better performance they were ever forced to critique.

You can see the key. Winning over my first two friends is pretty easy. Trying to win over Friends 4 and 5 is an exercise in graying the hair–a bit futile. So the victory lies in turning Comrade 3 into a believer instead of just an arriver.

Is it really that simple? It certainly is, and thank God, because any deeper complexity would render me completely ill-prepared for participation.

So all five of my friends showed up in Coloma last night–and all five of them went home. My hope and prayer is that each one of them found a certain satisfaction that will enlighten their hearts to be the better sparkle of themselves.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. My husband and I were at the Coloma concert last night and we had the best time ever!!! You have such a God given talent and you use it as He intended. Your musical talent and the way you have of getting your word across is unique and spell binding. Janet’s talent is equally as great and her solo of The Rose made me cry. We want to thank you for sharing what God has given you both and hope to some day again spend time with you.

    Like


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