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We Are Not Alone

You’re not alone.

I want to say this to the mom who dares to tell me that she’s completely disorganized, that it feels like she’s not good enough, like she doesn’t know where her life is going.

Though I wrote a post titled I Am Alone, I want to say the opposite to the mom who’s worried about her looks, afraid of getting older, terrified of finding herself alone.

You’re not alone. I try to say it to my refugee friend who wakes dressed in her street clothes, cold, in a tight top bunk of a bed, in a tiny village in Valais, in a stuffy room packed with five other women who don’t speak her language.

You’re not alone. I say to my friend who admits that she can’t imagine how she’ll survive another year of parenting.

You’re not alone. I say to the mom who’s taking too many pills to numb her pain, just so she can walk through her illness, so she can climb out of bed.

You’re not alone. I say to the mother whose son is on drugs; and to the one whose daughter stopped talking; and to the other one whose little boy can’t learn to write.

You’re not alone. I say to my own mom who watches my dad struggle to recall the day, the time, the year as he fends off Alzheimer’s Disease.

“We must be united,” the pastor said yesterday at a new church we were visiting.

But we feel so alone sometimes, I thought.

I looked at my red running shoes. I wore them to church because my knee was throbbing. They were dirtier than my new friend’s clean white shoes beside mine. My scruffy Saucony’s had biked and run for months on Swiss, muddy, rocky trails. Meanwhile her white sneakers had somehow survived abuse in Uganda, traveled on planes and trains to get here— followed me to church. Though the two of us were vastly different, we could chat about the drippy weather, pray together, and mutter about the difficulties of parenting.

As the pastor talked further about unity, I pictured myself lifting up and away from it all. I imagined escaping the heaviness of religion, of rules, of labels and stereotypes and hairstyles and nationalities and shoes. This stuff binds us, prevents us from finding the way to one another. And so I imagined leaving behind excuses like:

“We have nothing in common.”

“I don’t know her well enough.”

“She should help herself.”

“I don’t want to overstep her boundaries.”

“I don’t have time.”

"I might not be safe."

I thought of all the reasons we leave the stranger, the friend, the other mom, the family member. We leave one another alone.

"We are stronger, always, when we are together," said the pastor.

What if we could pull away from the small holes of our own eyes, the boredom of our own soft bodies. What if we could see far beyond whether shoes are clean, whether a kid dresses strange, whether a mom is a refugee or an Swiss expat born in Michigan?

What if we couldn’t even squint to tell whether a woman or man was rich, poor, black, white, Muslim, Christian?

We could set our souls free to drift to a height unable to see if somebody was awkward, or popular, or Chinese, or American, or Pakistani, or Syrian. What if we couldn’t even notice the clothing, couldn't tell a CEO from a street cleaner or a truck driver?

I imagined it then. I could almost feel the clouds while I dangled up in blue space, me and my dirty sneakers. I imagined looking down on tiny glowing dots of jewel colored souls in that church, in my city, in our world pulsating in an intricate, enormous mosaic of humanity.

Each one of us grew to get to this moment, this year, to share a planet, to live at the same point in this continuum of time— somehow. We all were granted voices and limbs and hearts and imaginations elastic, capable of stretching to the next person, the next house, the next village, the next nation. We all were formed and filled with gifts to give, to fling out of ourselves, to travel beyond our tiny little closed-up bodies.

Maybe we can just say one kind word.

Maybe we can just listen a little bit longer.

Maybe we can ask just one question of a quiet person, someone sitting in the margins, that person we never hear.

Maybe we can forgive that one person we never thought we could.

Maybe we can accept the woman, or the kid, the neighbor we don't really like. Maybe we can forgive that person even with all of his or her flaws.

Maybe we can bend over and laugh with a stranger. We can talk with a person we never bothered to turn toward.

Maybe walls and fears and borders and hate and excuses can crumble when we bend, we become the bridges, when we say to ourselves:

I am here.

We are not alone.

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