Anyone who can enter a dining hall, choose one's food, utensils, beverage, dessert, find a seat at a table, pray, eat, dispose of one's used items and food scraps, and retire from that dining hall without speaking a word is my kind of people. There was none of the inane small talk that always happens when we find ourselves encircled by unknown people: what's your name? where are you from? what do you do? how many children do you have? seen any good movies lately? read any good books? isn't it a shame what happened to so-and-so? how about those knuckleheads in Washington? Nope, none of that.
Some people read. Others, like me, journaled. Actually, I don't recall seeing anyone else journaling or taking photos in the dining room... but the fact that no one seemed to think I was strange for doing any of the strange things I like to do while eating, the fact that such deep honor was given to silence meant that I was safely surrounded by my kind of people.
Every morning, as I waited my turn to go forward to receive the eucharist, I would watch the men and women before me in line. Some limped. Others pushed walkers. Some wore thick glasses. Some smiled. Some looked somber. Some bowed. Some stood upright and strong. One or two were younger than I am. Most were markedly older. Some were priests, some nuns. Most of them, I had no idea who they were or what their stories were.
One morning in particular, I spent much of the time of the liturgy thinking about the fact that I knew only three people in the room, and two of them I had met only briefly before the retreat began. I knew nothing about most of these people. And in silence, I was not likely to learn much any time soon. As I watched, as I thought, as I prayed, I became convinced that I know precious little about anyone in my life. There are always far more stories than we ever have time to tell, and the majority of the ones we tell are crafted and delivered in ways that make ourselves look pretty good. There will always be secrets held closely, embarrassing moments never told aloud, painful ones never broached, and more stories forgotten than we would ever have the time to tell. And I realized that it doesn't matter. It never really has.
What matters is that whoever you are, wherever you come from,
as I walk, as you limp,
as they sit, as we pray,
as she eats, as he travels,
as we all work, as we all live,
as we love, as we die,
whatever we do, we are all one people.
One kind of people: all wanting to be loved,
That day in the moment of receiving the bread and the cup,
the symbols of the one body broken for us,
I realized that we are all one body, broken, wounded, bleeding internally.
Each of us. All of us. Without exception.
I realized that they were all my kind of people.
As are you.