I spent a Sunday morning having brunch with my husband and some friends. And some of their friends. Then we all went looking for clapper rails – whatever that is.
During the brunch, my friend – who is my best friend in the USA for over 20 years – talked about how the non-profit she is engaged with does educational stuff in the environmental sciences. This morning she was in her official capacity host for the little group having a splendid fundraising brunch on the organization’s premises. She has been part of this organization’s volunteer corps for ages, been on the board for years, and at times she tried to draw me in as well.
Do you recognize this pattern?
We have found something that puts us in flow. Something that fills our life with intellectual curiosity, a feeling of belonging, meaning… and we want to share it with our best friends. We wish for them to feel this intellectual curiosity, feeling of belonging, meaning… as well.
I have often supported my friend in her endeavors. As the pandemic closed the organization’s field trips with the local schools, we went on many a trip to local green areas to find interesting places where a “walk on a field trip” could be done locally with family pods. And yes, there are biological and ecological interesting things to find – even if you just go for “a walk in the park”.
But over the years, I often felt bad that I couldn’t engage with my friend’s organization with the enthusiasm she mustered. Did it make me a bad friend? Did it make me a bad person that I didn’t throw all my energy behind the important work of teaching children about saving our planet? Could I honestly lament that I feel estranged from the local nature, because I used to know my wildflowers and trees but after moving to another country I don’t. Does it make me a hypocrite that I don’t engage more with her organization where I would learn for sure?
At times, these thoughts and feelings didn’t make it easier to enjoy going for a walk in the park – as much as our weekly walks are part of what keeps me sane and in shape.
Writing this, I wonder if part of our desire to share our passion with friends is also an ask for validation?
If I think something is really important and you don’t care much about it, does that mean you think I am wasting my time on something not worthwhile? Or does any need for validation fall away when we are passionate enough about something?
As we were walking back from our after-brunch morning trip into the local marshlands, I felt a sense of relief and release. What makes her engaged and alive needs not be what makes me engaged and alive. My friend is a biology major with teaching credentials. I am not. It doesn’t stop us from being friends. On the contrary, she brings things into our relationship that I don’t (like names of local wildflowers and trees – and the occasional bird) and I bring in something else. That is one way we help each other grow.
And her worth, or my worth, or our friendship, or the value of my passion, don’t hinge on her participating in what interests me, either.
We didn’t find any clapper rails. The birds are there because we saw their footprints – but it’s a big marsh.
This Sunday the air was most refreshing – it even blew out some sticky cobwebs from my attic.