This is the second draft of what is supposed to be a reflection on friends. I have a long post all typed up and ready to edit. But I did not say what is truly in my heart.
I cannot live without my friends. Friends keep me sane and help me along life’s path. They mourn with me and celebrate with me. But homeschooling friends are tricky. (Thus, I begin again!)
Traveling with my husband and family for 20 years with the Air Force taught me much about friendship. In the service life friends are made quickly and held close. There is no long sizing up process, no trying to find out if we agree on enough issues to hang out. So I have had the privilege of knowing men and women from nearly every walk of life and many religious persuasions. I have been in deep conversations with Muslim women, Jewish women, Hindu women, Buddhists, Taoists, and Quakers just to name a few. I know well women who are Latter Day Saints, Jehova’s Witness, and members of nearly every brand of mainline and evangelical Protestant Christian church. These women represent a variety of races and ethnicities.
Each of these women has shared her stories with me. It changed my small town from Indiana perspective and helped me to start seeing that there are a whole lot of ways to live well in this wide world of ours.
When my husband retired in 2007 we purposefully picked an area that was diverse. We wanted our children to finish growing up among everyone, most especially people who did not look exactly like them.
When I moved here I went in search of a homeschooling group to belong to. While living on Andrews Air Force Base I had been a member of a vibrant, organized support network of more than 100 families. They hosted gym days, field trips, science fairs, plays and even a year book committee. We had to be careful to prioritize our school work; there was so much to get involved with. This unique pooling of resources was invaluable to me and I went looking for a place to belong in my new town only to come up empty.
For several years we met weekly with a small group of families. The kids played football, or hung out in backyards while the moms chatted. It was a nice chance for me to meet some new people and to hash out homeschooling issues. It wasn’t the ultra-organized entity we had been used to, but it filled a need and I will be forever grateful to Eileen for welcoming me and my kids.
We drifted away from this weekly play time and we have never found a substitute. There are many co-ops in our area and I have researched some of them to see if we could get the extra curricular support we craved. Each of them seems to be polarized around a particular school of thought.
Since I am a life long Catholic it would seem logical that I could fit in with these groups. We tried some activities but found ourselves looking in from the outside most of the time. I am not the right kind of Catholic, or not Catholic enough it seems. I never realized how radical I have been all of these years. The Catholic communities we belonged to on bases were concerned with supporting those who are in service to others. We were busy worrying about whether our husbands would come back from Deployments not about the Magisterium of the Church. Alas, this is a major concern for Catholics in my neck of the woods, so I needed to look elsewhere.
There are Protestant equivalents to the Catholic huddle above. There are co-ops that are part time schools. Unfortunately there is no wide social network that encompasses people from all different religions and races. It seems there is no place to gather and chat with other moms, trade ideas and make new friends. I guess what I found on the base in the early 2000’s was unique.
I think that we are in desperate NEED of more groups like the one at Andrews. If we only socialize with people who believe as we do, who look much the same as we do, how can we grow? If we aren’t forced to take our faith and air it out alongside of someone else’s, how can it remain vital? If we never hear the stories of the other moms, if we don’t know anyone whose child has been profiled, or suffered somehow for her appearance, how are our hearts going to change?
Since my heart has been regularly broken by the stories of the friends I have made since settling here, I have been completely transformed. I have changed my politics, my outlook, my perspective. How could I go on as before? I am certainly not the same person I was when I left home to travel the world back in 1986. Thank heaven!
Homeschooling is easier when it is a shared adventure. When we pool our families’ talents and resources we become something better than when our families study alone. I would like to call out the people who belong to faith exclusive, or race exclusive groups. Can we branch out of our comfort zones? Can we become more inclusive?
When you go to a meeting, sit at a table with someone you don’t know. When you are at the park in the middle of the day, strike up a conversation with that other mother with her children in tow, especially if she doesn’t look like you. Reach out to those who are on the margins for whatever reason. You never know what adventures are waiting for you if you are willing to walk on the other side of the street. You could make a new friend who will change your life.