Not for sale!
I have purchased food, clothing, books, pens, pencils, furniture, cars, paper, journals, stationery, cameras, candy, nail files, nametags, magnets, elephant statues, tickets, cds, chopsticks, alcohol, necklaces, bracelets, boots, envelopes, erasers, socks, bras, and thousands of other items in my lifetime. I have dreamed of buying airplanes, apartments and villas, islands, sapphires, motorcycles, friendship, love, attention, devotion, and passion. The thing I have discovered is that there are some things that are simply not for sale.
On certain occasions, on our wedding day for example, I have bought food and drinks and invited others to share those treats with me. But I could never have bought the friendship or love or support that were shown towards me and my husband that day.
I have purchased online courses and met some amazing people through those classes. One of those wonder-filled women I met online lives right here in Charlotte. She and I create art, go shopping for art supplies, drink coffee, eat sweets, and laugh and cry together on a regular basis nowadays. She listens to my joys and sorrows, and I do the same for her. I encourage her to be brave and strong as she faces some of life's toughest challenges and choices, and she does the same for me. But I didn't pay for that friendship or companionship when I clicked the PayPal button for the class that brought us together.
My daughter took two literature courses at a local private school two summers in a row. Her teacher, the delightful Ryan Welch, has become a friend of our family and Kristiana's biggest fan. When my daughter was sick, he sat across from her and said, "I know how great a student you are. I know that you are capable of great things. But until you are able to believe that about yourself, I will hold on to hope for you." I still weep whenever I think about that moment and the profound power of those words when he spoke them into and over her - and all of us - at the most difficult time of her life. He is the best teacher I never had and he shares the wealth of his knowledge and experience and fabulous sense of humor with us as often as we ask. But the checks I sent to pay for those classes did not purchase his affection and attention and kindness towards my daughter and our entire family.
I own nearly every book Alice Walker has written. I read one of her books - Living By the Word - so many times that I broke the hardcover binding and inadvertantly ripped out a few dearly loved pages. Through the poetry and essays Alice wrote that referred to her only child, I felt as though I knew her daughter, Rebecca, as well. Fast forward a couple of years - I read an article in Essence magazine written by Rebecca, who was a student at Yale at the time. I wrote a letter of thanks and appreciation to Rebecca for that article, and her response to my letter included an invitation to meet her in person. I drove to Yale, hung out with her for several hours that day and developed an ongoing friendship with her. After several subsequent letters and phone calls, she invited me to visit her at home - the home of Alice Walker - in northern California. Unbelieveable! A few weeks later, there I was walking around the home and property where Alice and Rebecca Walker lived and slept and ate and drank and wrote books and welcomed their friends - of which I was one. But I didn't pay for that friendship. I didn't pay for those moments of basking in joy and peace and the deep goodness of life and the earth.
I have countless similar stories: Of attending a movie and meeting my future husband and the father of my two amazing children. Of knocking on the dorm room door across from mine to ask for help with a biology assignment and meeting one of the smartest, gentlest, funniest, kindest women I have ever known - who eight years later was one of my three bridesmaids. Of ordering a drink at a bar and meeting someone whose stories of travel and poetry and music and art will always be a source of joy. Of welcoming a group on a school exchange trip and meeting a fellow pilgrim who for the last twenty-one years has told me stories of his priestly life and listened to stories of my wifely life and has summarily changed the course of my life journey. Of commenting on a blog and connecting with a soul-sister of the best kind who took the risk of catching a plane from Ohio and joining our family in North Carolina. No money exchanged hands. The biology tutoring was free. The drink was free. The movie was free. The school trip was paid for by a Catholic school. The blog comment cost me nothing. But the relationships that have developed as a result of each of those encounters are truly priceless.
The things that mean most to me -
love, connection, reliability, graciousness, kindness, warmth, romance, joy, honor -
are not for sale.
Laughter, loyalty, lightheartedness.
Commitment, consistency, courage.
Desire, delight, dependability.
Presence, passion, playfulness.
Gratitude, gentleness, generosity.
Dignity, esteem, respect.
Being remembered. Being loved.
Hands held, promises kept, dreams shared.
Stories told. Tears shed. Sacredness honored.
Not for sale.