Keeping in Touch
by Lori Heine
I want to keep in touch with my old friends. Though I don’t do it as often as I should. A few weeks ago, hoping to do some catching-up, I Googled two chums from childhood. I found one’s mug shot and the other’s obituary.
I guess I really do need to catch up more often.
The mug shot was from 1999. I have no idea whether my friend is still incarcerated or has long been free. The obituary was five years old. It would be embarrassing, after all this time, to call his mother and offer my condolences. She’d have every right to ask where I have been.
Most of us have friends who were important to us for years, years ago. They are somewhere out there, perhaps no longer reachable, but possibly as close as a lookup on Facebook. We may never have had the opportunity to come out to them. Our present-day lives are as big a mystery to them as theirs are to us.
Do we want to be figures of mystery, or do we want to be known? Are we content to be shadowy characters from the past, or do we miss our old friends and wish they were back in our lives? There are some people from our past we may be content to leave there. Others left holes in our lives no one else has been able to fill.
Sometimes we feel guilty it isn’t easier for us to hang onto old friends. We’re Christians – our loyalties should last for life. But we’re also citizens of the Twenty-first Century, just like everybody else. There are thousands of people in Facebook. That can make them easier to keep track of, but it can also make them easier to lose.
Here in our postmodern world, we feel a sense of community slipping away. Social media is not the cause of this; it can either be used rightly or wrongly. It can be used to make connections, or as a means of keeping others at bay. The choice of how we use it, or whether to use it at all, is entirely ours. What’s really needed, now more than ever, is a commitment to community.
We don’t need to live nearby. We can check in regularly with friends on the other side of the world, if we choose to stay connected. I enjoy communicating with Edrick, the editor of this magazine. He is important to me, even though I’ve never met him. He has become an encouraging presence in my life, and I consider him a friend.
Via Facebook, I’ve reconnected with relatives I haven’t seen in years. With a few of them, I have since been reunited in person. Classmates I lost touch with after graduation, decades ago, are now once again a regular part of my life because they thought of me, or I of them, and a “Friend” request was sent and accepted. I’ve found treasures I had feared I’d lost.
Somebody needs to recognize the perilous state of community in our world. As Christians, we may be uniquely suited to do this. The quality of our entire civilization – perhaps even its very survival – depends upon the strength of our communities. Christians are people of community. We are called to connect with others.
As LGBT Christians, we are adept at forming families of choice. Close, active, involved friendship is a gift I thought I’d lost when I finished school. When I came out as a lesbian, and became involved in community with other LGBT’s, I found that gift anew. It is truly one of the greatest blessings of coming out.
This is a gift we may be able to share with straight believers. It’s a contribution to the Body of Christ that we, perhaps more than anyone else, can make. Let’s ask our pastors what we can do to help build community in our congregations. Let’s go back to those old yearbooks, and read again the pleas our friends scrawled in for us to “keep in touch.”
It may not be too late, after all, to keep those old promises. There may yet be time for the holes in our lives, so long left empty, to be filled.
© 2013 Lori Heine
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