"I know them," Carre pipes up. We all insist she sing. "OK, but you all have to sing with me," she says, sitting up straight and clearing her throat.
"High on a hill stood a lonely goat herd," and thus it began with her clear voice. It had started earlier in the evening, actually, when we all started singing "Sound of Music," and I did what I always do, I got the words mixed up and the most surprising thing happened: someone noticed.
"Those aren't the right words," Katelyn said in her matter-of-fact tone. "I am highly offended."
But it wasn't until all of our voices yodeled with gusto that we fully understood - on our last night together - that we were kindred spirits.
Individual, beautiful voices blending together to create a unified, harmonized, confident song. We laughed about the ironies of "16 Going On 17" and Katelyn offered a beautiful reenactment of Maria's "When the dog bites" moment after she is told by the Captain, in no uncertain terms, that his children need NO play clothes. We came undone, relived favorite moments, struggled to remember together.
That is it, that is where life needs to be lived: TOGETHER. In Alaska, at the First Annual Harvester Island Workshop, I watched as strangers became friends, friends became sisters, and stories were not simply shared but LIVED. That is the beauty and magic of the written word, the shared story. We look back at our lives, our experiences, we relive and examine, we become excavators.
"I always wanted to be an archaeologist," I chime during a session. "Now you are," Katelyn says. "An archaeologist of the soul."
And as we begin to fully see from which we came, we begin to understand who we really are NOW and where our paths are leading us. But the best part is this: we do not keep it to ourselves. We share, we bleed onto the page for others to be able to recognize their own wounds and healing. When we become vulnerable with others and encourage and are encouraged, that is when the church is fully realized, that is when we become all that we are. We share our experiences in the moment or afterward, shine the spotlight on God or allow others to show us when we cannot see. Our voices blend together and become more as a choir than they could ever be apart.
When we live our lives without each other, it allows for room to fester in lies and close our hearts off to warmth, truth, friendship. We wonder if we are important. We wonder if we are the only ones to ever...you fill in the blank.
"Me too!" we hear when we share our pain, our joy, our fears, our dreams. We are not alone.
"Carey?" Leslie turns to me, smile warm, eyes attentive. "OK," I say, "mine's kind of random." Or the next time, "I really don't know how to tell this story."
We all did it, made it clear that what we have to share isn't perfect; "please don't judge me," we want to say. But here's the kicker - we were all sitting there writing at the same time. No polishing allowed. Why was an explanation needed? We were nervous. We weren't sure we were worthy.
"I was embarrassed to send in anything I had written." I overheard my roommate share this with my brother one day. I found out later this beautiful writer has a three book contract.
We are never fully "there" - the name in print gives us no more confidence than the ten minutes of free writing. We are, all of us, baring our souls, opening our wounds for the world to see. Sometimes the wound is fairly clean, other times it is not, but always it needs healing. The salve of fellowship, a walk in the fresh air, the suffocating hug of the banya, the slap of an ocean wind, the shower of rainbows reminding us this storm may scare and hurt, steal and destroy, but not permanently. There is the promise of hope, redemption, and healing. And the promise moves us to share.
"These are a few of my favorite things."