I sat down at the community table of the local coffee shop, noting the African-American women and small girl sitting at the other end. I smiled, belatedly realizing through my mask they wouldn’t know that. As I waited for my coffee drink, a treat for me on this Monday morning, I set about making my list for the week. I wanted to clear the decks a little, in expectation and anticipation, to see what writing might come.
“We are expecting the rest of our friends to come soon,” said one of the women to me, motioning that she would need the space, the table. “Oh,” I said, with surprise. “This is usually the community table, so I didn’t know…” I let my voice trail off… “When will they be arriving then?” “In the next few minutes…” “Okay,” I said. I tried to attend to the words that might come before “they” arrived. Realizing the expectation was now disrupting getting my thoughts together, I packed up my stuff and headed to the back of the coffee shop. The corner booth had just opened up, as way would have it. I curled up in the corner chair, enjoying the quiet and the greater comfort around me.
The irony was not lost on me of course: the Community Table.
What is required, from each of us, all of us, to rebuild any sense of trust in community in the American experiment? Is it even possible anymore? How do we rebuild something that has never truly been an expansive American phenomenon, made even more demanding now across differences exploited by late-era-global-capitalism and social-media algorithms bent upon fear, anger and hatred?
To be clear, this is not about being asked to move from a community-table by the woman who asked for what she needed. Happy to, and we both landed in what we needed--her, space; me, quiet. And she would have no reason to know I had just left my car, after letting it run for a while so I could listen to the end of a chapter of a book that currently has me. It’s captured my heart, my mind, even in the times I have to turn it off because I feel nauseous and sad.
The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers. The woman at the the table and I have every reason to see one another in the sculpted-wounded perspectives we’ve both inherited. Yet it begs the question for me, within the river of listening from another friend who is asking, “Is reconciliation even possible?” Reconciliation between…? we might ask…? Between white/color, masculine/feminine, wounded/wounding…? The questions are stomach-punches, to be sure, but there is strength and courage in asking them aloud… We have to remember how difficult it is, what we ask of others… this friend also said.
There will posts here to come, shaping what I mean by ‘community’ and what I am learning on my own journeying toward a more rigorous manifestation of that around me today. Enough for now to bow to the question, to move when asked, and to receive the graced quiet that comes when each of us receives what we need in the moment.
I will also always bow to my own sensation, yearning, however patiently I need to sit with my own sadnesses in order to participate in it:
I want the world to be different, to heal...
I want to sit quietly for, or walk slowly toward, the more frequent days when it feels possible for a moment at a time…this new/old story of reconciliation.
As I say to all those who sit in direction: at your pace. Only when You’re ready.