Sunday, June 27, 2010

Making New Friends - Lessons from a Four-Year-Old

Today my daughter and I went to Love Feast. This happens every Sunday evening at the Hari Krishna Temple near my house. This means that there is a feast of lovely vegetarian food for anyone who wants to come, and all one has to pay is love. And afterward, if you want, you can remove your shoes and go into the temple for a lesson from the Bhagavad-gita or if you get there early you can do some Bhakti yoga.

The food is good. I know because I have been known to frequent their restaurant, Govinda's, during the week, but this is the first time I have made it to Love Feast. The Hari Krishnas take up about half a block off of Venice Boulevard here in L.A. where many of them live and eat and the kids play tag on the grass in front of the visitors center. Though it is off a main boulevard, it is not a busy street and is quite narrow. Any cars who decide to drive down this street have to drive slowly because there are often kids and adults using the street like a courtyard. The women are colorful in yards of fabric, but there are some civilians like me, too.

Phoebe and I carried our food to the grass to watch the kids play tag. She watched for about half an hour and then she got up, spun around in a circle with a huge grin, and started running around in figure eights amidst the kids. She wasn't playing with them, just beside them. They were clearly having their own game, but she didn't seem to know there were any rules and just kept running and smiling and having a great time. I loved watching her pure joy, but I started to feel a little rejected for her because it was clear to me (though she was totally unaware) that she was on the outside and none of the kid were befriending her. That is, until she nearly collided with an older girl in a pink shirt. This was apparently all that needed to happen. The girl asked her her name, how old she was, and then gave her a high five, and they were b.f.f. after that. She introduced Phoebe to another friend in a yellow shirt and they started their own game of chase.

They were so cute and loving and attentive to her and I even caught them putting a pink scarf on Phoebe's head. They played for hours. Tag. Hide and Seek. They climbed a tree. I honestly couldn't have orchestrated it better.

Originally I was thinking that this was a funny story about how kids interact and meet, then I realized that my method of meeting people is not that different. It is often while I am running around enjoying myself (or pretending to), in the vicinity of other people, that I bump into someone, we exchange names, high five (or shake hands), get digits and the rest is history.

This is what happened when I was about 36 weeks pregnant. I went to a yoga class that was far away from my house (1/2 hour drive), but I had heard it was worth the drive--it was. We did some partner exercises and the girl I partnered with turned out to live three blocks from me, was due a week before me and we were both having home births. Oh, I forgot to mention that our birthdays are two days apart.

It was a cool coincidence. But I really didn't think that much of it. I had plenty of friends who had kids and wasn't thinking that I needed another friend. (I also didn't want to have to answer questions about myself or my situation at that time.) But Chelsea had other plans. She had just quit work and didn't know any other moms. She got my digits and she used them. There was no getting off the hook. She kept calling. And it turned out to be one of the best things that happened to Phoebe and I. Their family was very supportive to our little family during our first year and is still an important part of our lives. The girls are truly best friends (their birthdays are only 6 days apart and they both love purple), they go to the same preschool, and they love each other like sisters.

I learned a lot from watching Chelsea that first year. When we'd go to the park, she'd talk to anyone with a baby, and if the child was remotely close to our kids' age, and the parent was breathing, she'd get their number and try to make a connection. The big lesson I learned was that not all moms have the support we do in our community, and if they are not as outgoing as Chelsea, may be quite isolated. Maybe they are going to the park, chasing their kid around in circles, and hoping to bump into another mom and make a friendship.

Today in church I learned that we go to church to fellowship and be fellowshipped. We must also go into our community and do the same.

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