In class, Aaron played for his first graders “Star of the County Down,” the classical guitar piece paired with the reading about Jesus’ crucifixion for the Good Friday service. To develop in them an understanding of the tonal differences between minor and major keys, he asked the six-year-olds to describe how the piece made them feel. He hears: “Sad!” “Sad!” “Sad!” “Awesome!” “Sad!” “Sad!” “Happy!” There’s a little girl in the class who is quiet and resistant to the energy and fun of music class that the other students embrace. When it’s her turn, she says, “Alone.”
While sadness and happiness are often impermanent, I think aloneness lingers. I don’t usually feel alone, but I do feel ordinary. Feeling ordinary and feeling alone are almost the same, I think, except in the first instance, you wrestle with the disappointment that comes from feeling too similar and in the second, with the disappointment that comes from feeling too different. Either way, aren’t we all just walking around, convinced we are capable of being more than we are?
See, Anna Faris, who is three-years-older than me, is revolutionizing the way cinematic comedies view women. And, a friend of mine from high school has a crafting blog so popular, that soon I expect to see advertisements for Jo-Ann Fabrics. Lucy Grealy published The Autobiography of a Face when she was 29, and in a year or so, when I really start to care about money, I’m sure I’ll be overwhelmed by all the people my age with stock options and plans to retire at 45.
I had this student last semester who was abandoned by her parents when she was in sixth grade and spent the next twenty years homeless. Every day she wore a trucker’s style hat that read “Jesus Loves Me.” When she missed a class, she would explain to me that she was in the middle of an eviction and a divorce because her husband wanted to marry her best friend instead. She always concluded by telling me how Jesus would take care of her, so she knew she was going to be okay. She said Jesus told her the other night when she was praying that she was strong. It was strange. She talked about Jesus so often that I started to think he’d walk in with her to class one day. He was such a real person to her.
Sometimes, I wish I hadn’t been so religiously intense in high school because I could use some of that abandon as an adult. I suppose everyone wants to feel like they’re moving forward rather than backward, and so I’ve been searching for ways to believe that don’t make me feel sixteen-years-old again.
Teaching yoga helps. I’ve been teaching through a community program that lets people take one class at a time for free or for a $5 donation. One woman has been coming regularly and last night, our final session before the class resumes in the fall, she said she’s always wanted to try yoga but couldn’t afford a gym membership. She told me that the class was a gift to her. That made me feel good. I didn’t necessarily feel Anna-Faris or Lucy-Grealy great, but I either forgot I was ordinary or didn’t care.
About five or six years ago, I figured out why everyone likes The Beatles. John Lennon was right about all we need. There is always a way to give. There is always someone to love.
Here’s some footage of my someones: