I just finished reading Have A Little Faith by Mitch Albom, the same guy who wrote Tuesdays with Morrie, a memoir of sorts about his last conversations with a favourite professor. Have A Little Faith begins when Albom’s rabbi asks him to give his eulogy. Though Albom has not attended his synagogue in years, he accepts the request, thinking that the rabbi’s death is impending. In reality, the rabbi ends up living another 8 years, giving Albom the opportunity to reacquaint himself with the man whom he considers a “Man of Faith” (worthy of caps). Meanwhile, a little closer to home, Albom gets to know an inner-city pastor in Detroit who is a recovering drug addict. As per mitchalbom.com, “As America struggles with hard times and people turn more to their beliefs, Mitch and the two men of God explore issues that perplex modern man: how to endure when difficult things happen; what heaven is; intermarriage; forgiveness; doubting God; and the importance of faith in trying times.”
I learned some things from this book. One quote sticks out to me in particular, which Albom writes after retrieving a file of his schoolwork from grade school:
On the plane I leaned back and undid a rubber band that held the file’s contents. I reflected on my life since New Jersey. My plans as a young man – my “citizen of the world” dreams – had come true, to a degree. I had friends in different time zones. I’d had books published in foreign languages. I’d had many addresses over the years.
But you can touch everything and be connected to nothing. I knew airports better than I knew local neighbourhoods. I knew many names in other area codes than I did on my block. The “community” I had joined was the community of the workplaces. Friends were through work. Conversation was about work. Most of my socialization came through work.
And in recent months, those workplace pillars had been falling down. Friends were laid off. Downsized. They took buyouts. Offices closed. People who were always in one place were no longer there when you called. They sent e-mails saying they were exploring “exciting new options.” I never believed the “exciting” part.
And without the work connection, the human ties released, like magnets losing their attraction. We promised to keep up, but the promises were not kept. Some people behaved as if unemployment were contagious. Anyhow, without the commonality of work – the complaints, the gossip – how much was there to talk about?
I am not the sum of the things that happened to me this week. But how can I connect with others other than by telling people “what’s going on” with me and asking “what’s going on” with them? Recounting a string of events – what happened on Saturday and Sunday and Monday night and today… how frustrating. Is this the only way to get to know someone? Can we hope for more?
I don’t like answering that I’m fine. Sometimes I am. Sometimes I don’t want to talk about it. Sometimes I don’t want to talk about it because it doesn’t make sense, you know?