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I’m Rev. Jess Chancey, filling in for John as he is away on sabbatical.
I have been exceptionally blessed by some very good friends in my life. My family moved around quite a bit when I was younger, so making friends was a bit hard, since I was always the new kid in town. I suppose that’s why when I make a friend, I get attached. That hasn’t always served me so well, but there are some folks who have become permanently important parts of my life.
When I moved from Atlanta to Philadelphia at age 36, I was certain I was too old to make new friends. I was happily wrong, but that didn’t stop me thinking the same thing again when I moved to St. Paul just two years later. I mean, it’s hard enough making friends in your late 30s, add to that the iffy boundaries that come into play as a minister. I moved here for work, serving as a hospital chaplain. I have evening shift hours, so I leave my place right after lunch and don’t get home until close to 11pm. Sundays are spent worshiping and taking care of all the chores and errands that haven’t found a way to do themselves yet. Saturdays? Yeah, no. Sure, it’s an ostensible free day, but I call it “lump day.” Because that’s all my dog and I have the energy to be. A pair of lumps. So I don’t often meet people outside of work, and since I’m a chaplain, everyone I meet at work is under my spiritual care. I’m often friendly with the staff here, but I try give them more energy than I take.
Of course some of the folx here have managed to wiggle and worm their ways into my heart, especially as COVID has made mutual support ever more important and rewarding. I don’t just give vaccinated hugs, I receive them. Coffee and meals are shared, as are laughs at the worst jokes. I mean bad, like “how do you make a tissue dance?” bad. Spoiler alert: you put a little boogie in it. I am truly blessed to be here, with these people, where I feel God has called me, and also where God has placed them.
There’s one friend in particular, though, who gets me more than anyone. She’s the Spock to my Kirk. Or the Kirk to my Spock. It’s hard to tell sometimes. We used to see each other all the time at the hospital, but when Wynonna moved to another location with a different schedule, we’d go weeks without getting to say hi. We had to do something about that, so we set aside the first Sunday of every month to go to a local winery. This month we went further out than before, an hour and a half west of the Twin Cities, cracking jokes and complaining about how hungry we were, mocking each other’s accents over the way some of the towns out here are pronounced. I mean, really, they say “why-zetta” but it sure looks like Way-zott-a to me! And outside the car, the most amazing colors were everywhere in the trees, and the sky was the most perfect blue.
We spent more time in the car than at the winery, since we just had a small sample of tastings, picked out a couple we liked to take home, and did a brief tour. The vines were bare, and it was a bit too chilly to walk around the vineyard. So we just hopped back in the car, stopped at a grocery store on the way home to grab some dinner, then laughed our way through some TV and food.
It was such a simple day, nothing grandiose, just time with my bestie. But what could be better? It’s friends like Wynonna who can take a month’s worth of stress and make you completely forget it in one afternoon, just by singing 80s music together in the car. Or they can help you process what’s been going on, because you know they get it without having to really try. Or they can just sit in silence with you and experience shared gratitude for the beauty that’s around you. Friends really are God’s gift to us, to help us through the loneliness that is so characteristic of the human condition. Best friends are the reminder of God’s presence with us, sometimes a reflection of God’s presence in ourselves. So take some time with your best friend. Have an adventure. Enjoy that companionship. Reach out to someone to go with you on this, our journey into this mystic.