When I was a boy and even into my teens and adult years I used to hate mixing with people too much. As a boy my older brother used to complain that I always liked playing by myself. My mother used to call me "unsociable" and "selfish" and force me to play with my brothers by taking away the things I was playing with or the book I was reading. As a young boy/teen I liked nothing better than to hop on my bike and explore the world by myself. Mum and Dad often hosted people for Sunday night shindigs or Sunday lunches and I would often slink off to my room. (Much to my mother's disgust) I went to youth group and youth club functions and enjoyed them well enough, but often enjoyed watching and listening to others rather than conversing too much. I was never the centre of attention, the life of the party, but by choice really, a more quiet participant. I was part of a group of teens from the youth club that "hung" together, but I often enjoyed being by myself. Even as an young adult I did not like crowds. I recall in the early years of our marriage if we were up town on a Friday night there were times when I just had to get out of a department store to get away from people! It was almost a phobia. My poor new wife wondered what she struck. (Friday nights were crowded then - no weekend shopping) We would be moving through a shop and I would say, "I gotta go!" and leave her standing bemused while I pushed for the door. I think I had (perhaps still have to some extent) deep "trust issues" from somewhere in my childhood.
I recall watching the film "Paint your wagon". Lee Marvin sings the song "I was born under a wandrin' star" and I simply LOVED it! That was ME!
"Mud can make you prisoner
plains can make you dry
snow can burn your eyes
but only people make you cry!
Do I know where hell is?
Hell is in "hello"
Heaven is goodbye for ever
its time for me to go!"
I so identified with those sentiments that I rushed out and bought the 45 record. (Funny that I was married at 20 years of age?) I still enjoy being by myself. I still enjoy watching and listening to others. I still find relating to new people a psychological hurdle. I am relatively good at leading a service in front of crowds, but it remains something I get nervous about. Working, walking, running, biking, just "being" by myself is still an enjoyable experience for me.
But I know in my heart that it is good to relate with people. I know too that if I am to be a follower of Jesus (JC's helper) I am called to push past my shyness and in my way, relate with people. I know that sharing in loving ways with others is THE most important thing I can do in life. Today I felt the warmth of that. As I have moved about today, down the street, in Space2B and in chaplaincy I have had people giving me very warm "Hello's". Sorry Lee Marvin, I enjoy your character and your song, but you are wrong. "Heaven" is in "hello". I think it is unhealthy if you need to be with people all the time. I think it is important to be able to know, love and be by yourself, but there is something sacred about friendship and sharing. Today I experienced that warmth, and for that I am thankful.
Photo: The group I used to "hang around with" as a teen sometimes on a Sunday afternoon. Where am I? ... way at the back!