Jambalaya

It wasn’t even an entire evening.

Just a few hours, really. Grains of sand on the beach of Time.

Yet, on just such grains is the foundation of lasting friendship built.

Three married couples of varying degrees of life experience (which, yes, is AARP-speak for “age”), including my wife and I, enjoyed a wonderful, early-June excursion to downtown Joliet’s New Orleans North festival.

Good music, fabulous food, engaging conversation, lots of laughter, and abundant opportunities for watching colorful people of every derivation available in a major metropolitan suburb in 2016. What could make it better?

Only the chance to do it all with people who share your interests. Who appreciate – or at least tolerate — your pretzled sense of humor. Who indulge your cranky, “It-has-been-a-long-day-and-somebody-better-feed-me-soon” demeanor. Who have heard, more than any twenty people should ever have to hear, about your personal and professional woes, yet patiently listen to your new tales of terror (or worse, the old ones rehashed).

People who have lived your life and celebrated your successes and dreamed your dreams and felt your frustration. Who have been shoulder, and ear, and hands, and heart.

People about whom you care, deeply, because you know — intuitively, in the darkest room of your soul where such sustaining knowledge is kept and protected — that they care about you, too. Even when it runs against reason or benefits no one to do so.

Mirror images? Not at all. Indeed the real fun, the true magic comes in the differences. Each divergence a precious gift, the glory in the surprise of opening and exploring. A new chance for conversation and education. Seeds for new growth. Glue cementing bonds that may bend, but are not likely to break, having grown solid and strong in their endurance.

And so we, the six of us, ate and talked and laughed. Kvetched and teased and laughed some more.

Neither demanding anything fancy nor expecting anything in return. Just the cool evening air, filled with rousing jazz and blues. Our spirits mixing like the spices in the jambalaya dished up down the street. Becoming its own thing. Existing only in the times we share.

The soul of friendship. Pouring into us, like the sweet Hurricanes flowing from the bar taps. Floating around, enveloping, almost physically hugging each of us. Soothing past hurts. Fueling this moment. Building a bridge to whatever comes next.

Together.

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Sacrifice

Generally speaking, I am a hopeful person.

I believe that the world’s many frustrations and shortcomings can and will be OK with time, understanding, patience and work.

Still, some things just make me nuts.

For example, the penchant for some to expect (demand?) recognition for their so-called charity…

SACRIFICE

So let me get this straight…

You mean to tell me,

That I cannot tell you

When I do something great?

No Instagram or Facebook post

I must hide my glory under a basket?

No Snapchat or Tweet

To proclaim that I am the most?

I cannot share my generosity

When I drop a quarter

In a cup (well, actually – maybe — a dime)

Then how will anyone see?

No blog message to sing proudly

How caring my thoughts, how large my heart?

Then how will the world know

That “Honestly, it’s not about me.”

If I cannot seek adulation’s touch

For how kind (I piously boast) I have been,

Well, now let me tell you,

That’s just asking too much.

                                                                                                      May 2016