Visits “back home” to Abilene can feel like being pulled through a knot hole backwards while chowing down at the Golden Corral. With two kids in college there and 20 years of friendships to reconnect with, I’m constantly looking at the clock ticking time stretched too thin as I gorge myself on as many of my people as possible.
We recently experienced such a time, a few short days filled with coffee dates and meals around tables and chance encounters. I sat knee to knee with a too small handful of friends whose conversations picked up exactly where we left off the last time. The same thing happened each visit. We wasted no time, hurling our stories at each other like confetti: the holy cow of mothering college students, thoughts on Beyonce’, the courage of emancipated minors, scary new business ventures, coordinating travel dreams, the corrupting spirit of power and a certain beverage named The Salty Lady.
It was like crack to me. It filled me up and wasted me all at the same time. I grieved the people I missed and the conversations that got cut short.
There is a fusion of story that happened with these particular people, back in the day when we were all birthing families and wrestling down marriages and trying desperately to keep one another from sliding off the edge toward crazy. Time has only served to age those friendships into swallows deeper and richer each time we connect.
A quote from CS Lewis scrolled through my thoughts that weekend, as I gulped down the stories of my oldest friends.
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
Doesn’t that make sense? Discovering a friend usually starts with one MeToo! It’s that thread of magic cloaked in common interest or shared experience that has the power to hook two souls together. A MeToo! is an emotion or opinion, like or dislike or taste. The more MeToo! threads that occur between two people, the greater the probability of a lasting friendship.
The MeToo! Factor of our Abilene friends is especially high. We had common threads tie us together early in our adult years, beginning a collection of shared stories that over years glued us together. As in all friendships, each one eventually had times when the MeToo! Factor waned and was more like a TheyWhat? Factor. A pushing away instead of a pulling toward. The stress on healthy friendships can be intense given our broken nature and can fizzle out prematurely. But those connections that by grace withstand the strain of mistakes and failures, going to hard places of confession and forgiveness and reconciliation, end up being some of life’s most precious gifts.
True friends are those who know your story and choose to hang out with you anyway.
I believe with enough intention and persistence, you can find at least one or two MeToo!s with everyone you meet. Because God designed us that way. As Brene’ Brown says, we are “hard-wired for connection.”
It’s why sharing our stories is important.
It’s why listening to stories is critical.
No two friendships are alike, not in depth or breadth or personality. The MeToo! Factor is a gift of one absolutely unique spirit connecting to another. It’s a mystery to hold with a reverent open hand.
We draw closest to those who “get us,” whose MeToo! threads are more golden than others. They have the potential to last beyond circumstance and situation, distance and convenience.
Wired as we are for this gift, it’s no wonder loneliness is such a soul sucking bummer. I’ve felt it and ache for those who are chronically lonely, whose connections with others feels weak or even absent. A drought of deep connections can dehydrate the spirit, drying up every drop of joy. Moving away from my Abilene pool of friends was terrifying and I seriously doubted God would ever be able to out friend himself.
Yet within a few weeks, through one short conversation with a stranger, He sent hope and an assurance that more friends were on the way. “My name is Kelli. MeToo! I have a 7th grade daughter. MeToo!” We exchanged numbers and ten years later we have a scrapbook of stories together.
Climbing out of a lonely rut can feel counterintuitive. Reach out when you don’t feel like it. Be open to listening to a story. Be willing to share one. A well-timed MeToo! moment has the power to flick on the light switch of the heart.
God knew exactly what he was doing when He gave us each other.
Given that most of the world’s brokenness stems from a lack of connection between humans, the MeToo! Factor just might contain the power to change the world. May we look for one such moment with every person we meet. And may we all find our handful of friends where the MeToo! Factor rockets off the charts.
“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”
―LM Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables