Archive for the ‘people’ Category

I love old ladies.

Take my friend Claudene for instance. She recently had another hip sergery.  Not a whimper or a whine — just surgery and then nothing but tough.

I asked her, “Why don’t you whine?”

“Wouldn’t do any good,” she replies.

There you go.

She recovered so fast after her surgery that I didn’t get out to see her at the hospital like I did for her first hip surgery. She didn’t have a word of complaint or criticism about that.  I like old people who are easy on you, who have learned to keep their mouths shut a lot.

Take my friend Louise.

She had a stroke awhile back. Tough go of it. She couldn’t talk for some time after the stroke which must have been hard for her because she is world class talker.  She is a super talker — funny, dry, wry and fly.

Indeed, Louise is one of the smartest, coolest conversationalists  I know —  liberal, fiesty, free of spirit, spunky even sassy. I like those kind of women; they keep it  real, and fun.

Louise doesn’t spar like she used to, but that twinkle is still in her eyes and I know those flip comments are still running through her head.

Of course not all old ladies are like these two; there are some cranky, negative, narrow-mined octogenarians.

But the ones I know are mostly calm — they don’t carry weapons — and they seem to be at peace with themselves and others.

What is it? What is the good the years can do to us?

I think it is this: we are better when we are old enough that we have nothing much left to prove — but we still wear a little lipstick. I think we are better when  we don’t care so much what others think — except when we watch the news at night and humph a little.  I believe we are better when we have seen and done pretty much everything — short of stuff that would have put us in prison — and when we know we didn’t do anthing perfectly and so we don’t expect anyone else to either.

What I like is the well-seasoned wisdom that isn’t interested in telling other people what to do but more into just enjoying people as they are.

Some of the old ladies I know, Claudene and Louise are among them, meet together for Bible study and fun. They talk, and they learn, and they take care of each other a bit, and laugh a lot. They are led by one of my very gracious friends, Glee, a real lover of people, another one who knows how to  speak only positive things, a wise woman among wise women.

I don’t know a more fun bunch of people than this group.

Well-seasoned ladies, who have been through it, who don’t whine much, who have outlived their more fragile men —  well most of them — and who know how to shut up a lot and how to talk a lot and how to eat heartily — and stay off a bathroom scale mostly — and  poke fun a lot with out being critical or mean — I love them!


I looked at the steps above and below me. All the available space was covered — with people.

The concrete steps were literally paved with seated people — something like you might see at the Spanish steps in Rome, but different —  people with dirt on their arms and water bottles beside them, people smiling and laughing.

And moreover and thusly, they were eating pizza, set out in boxes, stacked in the center of the steps.

It was a volunteer earth care team, and we sitting on the church entry steps, after work, on a mid-week evening. We had just been digging grass out of the yard, building a decorative retaining wall and constructing a pretty, curving, decomposed granite pathway.


Earth care, water saving and beauty — and community. The new plants that will be planted at the church will use less water, flower more, inspire us and the people who walk or drive by.

And that’s the thing, the people. On the steps that evening — laughing about goofy horror movies we have seen, woofing down tasty pizza, taking a break from work — we were a collection, a collaboration, a unit, an entity, a team, a people, a family. This is good church.

This is in fact, the highest social good, our best moment.  When we refuse to stay home, when we defeat isolationism, when we come out, when we team up to care for the earth and each other, when we have social discourse, when we become a pod, a murmuration,  a collaborative — this is deep, satisfiying good-good.

Want to live well? Want to please God?

Want the best experiences life can offer?

Find people, do earth care work with them, get pizza, put the pizza in the center of the group, eat, hobnob, laugh and then look around at the beauty you are celebrating.

This is your earth; this is your human family.

It was Friday night after work and we were at Bino’s Bistro and Crêperie in Hillcrest feasting on crêpes, tiredness, love and goofiness — trying to reprise us four years ago in Paris, recovering from too much San Diego this last week and indulging in the elemental and eternal concoction of comfort food and comfort family to stave off mental dysfunction, work ennui and certain death.

Diner came to our table as bacon, tomato, avocado, mozzarella cheese and spicy Chipotle sauce on a fresh, tender slightly chewy crêpe — it was a California Crêpe.

Dessert consisted of orange-Grand Marnier sauce, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream on a tender fluffy crêpe — it was Crêpe Suzette, and we clashed forks over it.

Here is the deal for us humans — food and people, never leaving out the people are necessary to thrive.

At Bino’s the owner came to our table and confabulated with us about his former restaurant in Coronado, his five black cats who take walks with him, his many and varied crêpe recipes and his repository of odd and desultory memories. He was charming.

And that’s it, people are charming, mostly, or not, but we love them, need them and ought to feed them a dose of our attention and warmth and appreciation for being the crêperie inside of the crêperie of the very essential ice cream and whipped creme crêperie of them!

I had lunch last week with a sweet friend who brought fresh veggie sandwiches for us to inhale. “People,” she mused, “teach us stuff, all of them.”

It’s true and beautiful to see life this way. The ones who fail teach us how to fail or remind us not to fail in precisely the gruesome and horrible ways in which they fail. The ones who succeed teach us how to succeed, in precisely the terrible and horrific ways in which they succeed.

Each person is a meal to us, each one a dessert!

So here is my human-restaurant recommendation. Yelp people, find people, visit people, consort with people and consume all of them!

People are the crêpes of life, and life is better if we munch on as many of them as we possible can.

“Put one hand here, one there,” I said.

And off he went.

“Ah, I did it wrong,” he said

“It’s okay,” I said. “You didn’t hurt anything. Ty it again. Just don’t stop moving when you put the drum down.”

I was teaching a fifteen year old to run a drum floor sander on an oak floor I was refinishing.

When we finished he said, “Thanks, that was interesting.” It was a good feeling for me too.

Working with young people — I like it, old teaching young, and young helping old.

Earlier in the day, in the parking lot at the church, I ran into Angelina. When I saw her, I got down on both knees. She’s five. We are friends. She comes to church with her grandma. Two years ago I adopted her for Christmas. She hasn’t forgotten. We always trade hugs when we see each other, and it’s safe and warm with us, like Christmas.

When I was in my twenties I remember wishing I had someone besides my parents who thought I was special, who believed in me, who would help me forward. It didn’t happen. When I was young, no one ever said to me, “Wow, you are going to do well as a thinker, as a writer, as a leader. Go for it!”

Very few people, besides my mom, saw what I was to become, and helped me move toward that. I didn’t get much help running the sander.

But more helping and mentoring of us all is needed, more seeing into what someone might be and calling it forth. More compliments are needed, more affirmations, more prophesy, more invitations to work together, more opportunity. More showing people how to do what we know how to do is needed. More crossing the generation barrier is needed.

Today I told a young mom who put on a garage sale for the church, ” I like you. You are really organized. You communicate well. I have something in mind for you. Let’s talk later.”

We will. She has got it, the organizational thing, the ability to make stuff mind, the smooth talk skill, the super woman energy source.

Last week I told my friend Glen, who was taking off on a camping trip with eight to ten boys and a few dads, “Man, I love your concern for young men! It is so cool how you have helped the kids in your group without dads. You are the real deal.”

He is! Glen is old, but he is helping young. He is believing in someone besides himself. Glen knows that young men without fathers should not be unattended. He is preventing something; he is crafting something. He is manufacturing social endowment, giving away the store, adding value to human beings.

We need this. People around us need to be adopted, empowered, endowed. We need to tell more people, when we see them doing well, ” You are the real deal! You are something special! You are going to go far!”

What are we thinking, keeping quiet? We are not noticing potential, not seeing the amazing person standing before us, not affirming genius when we see it. We should not be so silent. We should enthuse over them all, the old the young, the disabled, the failed, the smart, the average.

We should smile over them, beam on them, hover behind them, like good parents, shouting, “You can do it! Go for it! You’ve got it in you!” And we should include them in what we do, and show them how to sand, to refinish and to redeem life.

It isn’t that we ever want to flatter, bribe or manipulate with pseudo compliments or false affirmations. We aren’t looking to use people to do what we need to do. No, we want only the truth about each one; we only want to speak out the real value and actual potential in each person, teaching as much as possible as opportunity presents itself.

What is needed is to give the young an opportunity. What is needed is to give the old a vision for passing along their own precious, rich, beautiful familial, occupational, psychological, spiritual and social endowments.

The thing is to get out of ourselves enough to recognize that the amazing people around us are headed somewhere, and that we can help them get there.

There are two ways.

We can walk into rooms as if to say, “Here I am!”

Or we can walk into rooms gushing in redemptive, life-changing honesty and humility, “There you are!”

What it’s like to do what someone else does?

What’s it like to be a rock star, the President, the criminal, the scientist, the spy, the addict, the mother, the etymologist the homeless?

I don’t know. I do kind of know what it is like to do what I do. It’s a bit complicated, but in a way I like, but maybe I can explain it to you. I have four vocations —  at once. I know the inside and out of a quadratic profession.

I am a thinker-writer-teacher-pastor, and I like that; I especially like the bleed between the four. I like the blood and guts and danger in the mix, and the safety in it too — swords, advances, battles, salves, bandages and medicines.

As a thinker I sit a lot and brood. I chew the conceptual cud.

Then I write. As a thinker-writer I become Adam, exploring Eden. I become Aristotle, sorting out the creation. I’m Linnaeus. I hunt for new species. I find little thought beasties. I name them. I tend to them with adjectives, feed them synonyms and poke them a bit with rhetorical devices. I classify the little lovelies, and groupify them.

I pick, sort and stackify words, sentences, larger units. At first, it turns out badly. Then I move them, again, again and again until I better like the ways the word-thoughts line up — just right, like school children at a classroom door.

Then I pat them on the heads, if they please me, and press “Publish.” Then people read them — a few do.

That’s a little bit what it’s like to be a thinker and a writer. Add eye strain, rejection and insecurity and you are getting there.

But it’s not like that. It’s never that clean.

Then, when I am the teacher, I throw the words I’ve discovered as a thinker and writer out of my mouth out into an open spaces with people in them. Then I’m like a Plato, Jesus, Pascal or perhaps Thoreau — or perhaps not. Its interesting what happens then. The ideas I send out scatter.

Written words hold their place a bit and shake, but spoken words run more crazy, like bottle rockets.

As the teacherly words come out of my mouth, they tangle up with the all the words that have ever been said before and with all the words extant in whoever is listening to me. Then my precious little word stacks bounce around inside their heads.

Then just for fun and to establish rapport, I may swing a verbal right jab or linguistic left hook or a kick in the funny bone or what ever comes to mind to try to get to the students. The goal is to get to them — fast and hard.

Sometimes my teaching words stick in people, like spears, and savage what they think, and sometimes the words I speak knock people sideways and they head off in a new direction. That’s kind of cool.

That happens less than you’d think. And then there are the weird things that happen to teachers. Sometimes the ideas I’ve delivered change shapes right in the air, right between me and the listeners, and magically becomes something I didn’t even say.

Then people compliment me or criticize me for telling them things the very stuff they packed into the room with them. It can get interesting. Sometimes it turns out great! I’ve gotten credit for many ideas that other people invented while I was talking. It’s one of the perks of the teacher — bogus credit.

That’s a bit of what it’s like to be a teacher. But not much.

And when I am a pastor my vocations kind of all combine. A pastor, as I understand it is a leader. He is a good thinker and writer and teacher who is taking people place — mostly toward God.

As a pastor, I lead a lot. That’s what I do. I’m not sure what other pastors do, but this is what I do. I lead other people into who God meant for them to be, and I lead places into what God meant for them to become, hopefully. That’s the medicine in what I do.

To do this I listen a lot, to other people’s words and to reality, and to my honed sense of what’s good and what is not, and I try to listen closely to God.

As I listen, I look for a pattern, a sense of things, a drift, a needed next step, a forming personality, a set of emotions that need validation and for a new word or concept. Often I listen through other people, listening hard for the thinker, writer, teacher and pastor within them. Then I help them explore and discover the medicine within the next clear step.

It’s my opinion that people trying to follow God often have a sense of what’s needed next, especially if someone is there to listen, challenge and affirm what they think they are hearing.

The writer, the teacher the pastor as I experience them are really the same thing. These professions are in interaction with each other and with a kind of deep looking, inside and out.

This is just a little bit like what it’s like to do what I do.

I love it!

If you did it, or anything even vaguely like it, you would like it too.


Posted: April 29, 2013 in people
Tags: , , ,

The truth you speak doth lack some gentleness,
And time to speak it in–you rub the sore
When you should bring the plaster.

Shakespeare, The Tempest

“He called me a boy,” she said. “Why do people do things like that?”

“People don’t think; they just say stuff,”  I said trying to help. I could tell she was hurt. Someone rubbed the sore.

“You look very nice today. That’s your color,” I said, bringing the plaster the best I could.

“Thank’s!” she said and smiled, bandaged, just a bit.

Kind —  it’s a medicine. It’s salve to the soul. We need it more. Shakespeare got it right, as usual; too often the truth we speak lacks “some gentleness.” We bring a wound when we should bring a bandage. We get fired up, we don’t think, we comment, we misread, we blame, we critique, we attack, we wax unkind.

The other day I locked myself out of my office. My office manager drove from home, to let me back in. She didn’t say, “You should pay more attention.” She just smiled, and let me in. Kindness. Beautiful.

Kindness is the reaction that has a way of minimizing embarrassment, normalizing weakness, affirming loss. Kindness is a warm blanket draped over a shivering soul.

I told someone about a failure of mine. She said, “You did the best you could with what you knew. Using the facts you had at hand, you made the best decision you could at the time.” That’s true, and kind.

My disabled daughter Rosalind can be shockingly kind. If I mention, in casual talk, that her friend Steve can’t speak, and he can’t, she’ll say, “But he can sign really well.” If I say about another disabled friend, “He has trouble controlling his anger,” she responds, “But he really tries. I think he is frustrated.” Rosalind’s default response toward others with disabilities is kind.

This is revealing. When we get it, the pain, when we have experienced it, disability or failure or loss, then kind gets worked into us.  Kind hugs come from the one who knows what it is to need a hug.

Kindness is a kind of strength. Recently one of my friends stepped to a table after a meeting to help another friend, suffering from Parkinson’s, rise from his chair. Another went to his other side, and both, taking an arm, lifted him up so he could stand, and then they waited until he could gather control of his body and leave the room with dignity. That’s kind.

Kindness is not a wimp. Kindness is a tough guy. Kindness does some serious shutting up about things that could be criticized. Kindness does some heavy lifting for those who cannot lift themselves. Kindness crushes criticism with  help. Kindness has a kind of super strength. It can nullify meanness. It can erase hurt. It can doctor a broken ego.

How unwise are they that lack the gentle touch.

Every healthy soul is constructed out of a thousand kindnesses received — and given.

P1020582When I came around the corner of the breezeway in the church, I was a bit surprised to see a shopping cart stuffed with suitcases, and on the hall floor a rectangle of lumpy sleeping bags and blankets. Then it came to me; a bedroom had been set up in front of my office door, the lumps, under the blankets —  people sleeping.

I had just walked to the office from a large room down the hall where polling booths had been set up and volunteers were in place to receive the ballots of people coming to vote in the special election of a new senator.

There the stuff to make a senator; here, a temporary homeless camp.

Sleeping bags, ballots, blankets and voting booths — the ebb of life mixes the levels and layers which ferry us along, some on concrete, some on mattresses, some with acceptance speeches in their dreams, some harboring alarms and starts and stops and frights all night.

I recognized them, woke them, offered a bit of food from our pantry, and sent them off with some little plastic bowls of peaches and a kind goodbye. They had been at church on Sunday and it came to me with a slight shock that I had never before woken parishioners sleeping on the sidewalk of the church.

But really, this is no anomaly. This is life everywhere. The poor and rich rub shoulders all over the world, one huddled under a dirty blanket, one housed and roofed and clean and safe and voted into power not far away.

It is our nature to seek out a compartment, a place, a niche and corner for the classes, the races, the ages and the genders. You live here, you over there, you up high, you down low, you in this church, you in that, you with this role, you play that, you sleep here and you can lay out over there. We tend too much to craft walls of common social bricks, of preferred addresses, and of identical building blocks.

We tend to set up our camps where we get what we want, moving to the suburbs for the schools, the inner city to blend in with our people, moving downtown to be upscale, moving to the country to get away from the city. We move west or east or north or south to find that little nook, that sequestered cranny, that briefly quieted corner where we can toss out a blanket, lie down a moment with our people, shield off something fearful and recover from our differences.

But when I go to my church, and I see the mix, the family who drove over in the Lexus, the family that walked over from the homeless camp, the one who took the trolley, the one who came in the Mini Cooper, the family from Peru, the one from Porta Rico, the beautiful woman from Jamaica who lives alone, the man with the addiction to power, the one addicted to meth, the woman who just moved up from Mexico with her children, the navy couple from the east coast, and I see them sing the same song and lift up the same hearts in the same place, then I know the truth, we are much the same.

Mix, toss, mash, mingle and lump together — the church is a sacred corner, a wooden floor and a cross-covered roof where we may see we are the same. There we all, with hands raised — children of one father, with identical hearts weighed down the same sins, weak and strong all in need of the same forgiveness — there, we cry out to the same savior.

I like the mix.

ExplosivesToday I noticed that my beautiful skin has sun spots on it, lines and wrinkles too — and one bulgy place, near the middle.

Also, I noticed again that my terra cotta kitchen floor has a dark scratch in it. I have a rug over the scratch, but it slips from time to time, and shows the mar.

Today I ate, steadily — therapy for scratches, and spots —  and I watched Romeo and Juliet die eloquently, in Fanco Zeffirelli’s movie version of Shakespeare’s tragic love story.

Life with or without the Capulets and Montagues, feuding in the background, is often far from perfect. Family isn’t perfect, and we aren’t either. Somebody told me recently, “I don’t like my voice; it’s nasally. It sounds like Yzma, the old lady in the The Emperor’s New Groove.” And there is more than that which is not perfect.

Last week, my uncle Jerry’s wife passed away. I talked with Uncle Jerry on the phone last night. He was watching some nature DVD’s, and feeling lonely —  of course. He said that he had gone out to the a swap meet that morning, looking for art, as he always does on Saturdays. He’s incredibly knowledgeable about American art. He was kind of wondering if going out was okay, seeing how little time had passed. I told him I thought it was.

Life isn’t perfect — or when it is — it doesn’t stay that way for long. Nothing survives the clot and rot of time’s inexorable march into dust.

But in our minds we want it good, better and we want it best. Perhaps we too much want it perfect.

Perhaps we want too much the enviable body, the together look, the perfect floor or family or schooled and accomplished self.

But it’s come to me of late what a fool’s errand perfectionism is, a false companion, to us all.

I’ve noticed lately how beautifully imperfect all things present themselves. I happened across on an old rusted trailer last weekend, rotting in a field. There, in the moment, it was a sort of amazing piece of dying artwork,  colored in rust —  a ripped, deteriorating, eroding, fading wonder. It was splendor in decline, but still splendid.

Take the human body. Most bodies, after the early years, aren’t taut, toned, sculpted, curvy or proportioned perfectly. They aren’t like the ones in the  magazines, they are not like the bodies on TV or in the movies. But bodies, not perfectly shaped, not the advertizing standard, not the current culture’s fickle fashion, are yet all amazingly beautiful.

Small, large, skinny, layered, lumpy, protuberant, muscled, flabby — all good. Skin itself  is always beautiful if we just accept it as it is — in rolls, puckered,  smooth, wrinkled, lined. It is all gorgeous and amazing as the protective human fabric we model for each other everyday.

It would be best to be done with wanting things to be perfect. If they are, we should enjoy them as that, but if they are not, and they will be not perfect longer than they are perfect, we should enjoy them just as well.

Exult in imperfection! Take pleasure in used. Accept scratches. Revel in spots. Even, make friends with death.

And, be particularly kind, I’d say, to family, and avoid feuding, with others and yourself. And most personally, be easy on your body, your own artfully deteriorating trailer. Gentle your needy. Honor your cracking voice. Savor your rust! Tender your fat. Love your jiggly parts. Be kind to your scrawniness. Shepherd your shyness and your sadness too. Make friends with your forgetfulness. And love your skin, that sumptuously beautiful bag that yet retains your lovely, sagging warp and woof.

I’m good with that. I advise you, to be happy, be  good with all that too.

P1020582Francis Bacon said, ” A good conscience is a continual feast,” but this sumptuous feast isn’t one everyone eats at.

What is a conscience?

Conscience is our inner voice that tells us what is right and wrong. Conscience is a kind of knowing of self, of knowing what we believe and value, of knowing the voice of right and wrong within.

It may be helpful to note that there are three types of conscience.

First is the silenced conscience. This is a conscience that has been ignored so much that it no longer has a voice, it is silenced. We may speak of this as the deadened conscience, a hardened heart, a conscience with no voice left.

How do we know if we have silenced our conscience?

We know our conscience is silenced if we can do wrong things and feel no guilt, if we are numb to guilt, even when we know we have done wrong.

I had two bowls of ice cream last night. My conscience spoke to me about this. It said, “You should have had three.”

When it comes to eating, my conscience is broken.

If I say mean things to people and it doesnt bother me, my conscience might be hard. If I steal and I dont feel wrong, if I lie and it feels normal, if I have sex with other people’s spouses and I dont feel its wrong, if I dont serve other people and have no conviction over that, if I dont feel guilty for not caring — then perhaps I have knifed and silenced my conscience.

The second kind of conscience is the loud mouth conscience, the over-active conscience.

We have a loud, talkative, over active conscience, if it is always telling us we are doing wrong, even when we are not. “You can’t eat that food. You can’t have a friendship with that person. You can’t see that movie. You can’t take a vacation.”

If we see life as full of wrong choices to avoid, we may have a permanently guilty conscience, a kind of floating guilt, not that we have done wrong, but that we are wrong.

If we have a lot of rules for living, if we are always telling people they are doing the wrong thing, if we never feel good enough, perhaps we have an over-active conscience.

This may have come from our parents, if they were too strict, and we were made hyper-sensitive to right and wrong. It may have come to us from shame, from not feeling forgiven, then we may default to a guilty, shame-based identity.

What can we do with our too silent or our too loud conscience, our conscience that doesn’t speak to us enough, or that speaks to us too much?

We can recalibrate our conscience. Think of the touch-screen phone. Our phones with touch screens must be calibrated to work correctly. To accurately calibrate the screen, we go through the steps of touching center, top right, top left and so on until the surface is accurate to the touch.

So how do we recalibrate the conscience?

First, we can calibrate our conscience by exposing it to the truth. This is done by reading truth, by reading the scripture, by reading wise books, by resetting our brains with wisdom, knowledge, reality, as seen through the lens of written truth. What is right, this is wrong — these are not new concepts, and we will all do well to build our sense of morality with the wisdom of the ages.

Secondly, we can put ourselves up close to wise people. We can open our thoughts to the wise, and ask them if they think what we are feeling guilty about is right or wrong. What is right? What would you do?

This will lead to the development of the third kind of conscience, the healthy, accurate conscience.

This is the conscience that knows right and wrong, convicts of wrong at the right time, and gives permission to do right. It says “guilty” when we are guilty; it says “pure and free,” when we have done nothing wrong.

The healthy conscience can detect bad advice

This week a conversation with someone about sex. It is so healthy, to talk about sex, especially with the younger generation. Someone told another the person I was talking to, ” I had sex with my boyfriend, I don’t see anything wrong with this. I think the Christians have made too big of a deal about this.”

The person I was talking to said, “I don’t agree with what my friend said. I still want to wait until I am married to have sex.”

I said, “We’ll, then honor your conscience, honor your own soul. Know what you soul needs. I actually don’t think it is wise, to fragment your soul, by bonding it sexually with multiple partners. I think that it is wise for you to wait for sex until you make your marriage vows to one person.”

That is what the wise books have always indicated is wise, and I think that a healthy conscience is in tune with a morality that is larger than ourselves.

We didn’t make the conscience up, and we don’t make morality up, it is a gift, something God put in us. I think that one of the really amazing experiences of life is to life is the alignment our conscience and our behavior with God.

All of us always do well to ask: God, what do you want me to do? And what do you want me to stop doing?

We fragile, shifting humans, we want many things! But who we are, and what we will be, and what we say is right or wrong, this is best put before God, because a healthy conscience is the continual feast put on by the master chef of the whole universe.

“Don’t do anything for your kids,” he said with a mischievous look in his eyes, “and then they won’t expect anything from you.”

Pat laughed, as he did after so many things he said, then I laughed too. His personality filled the space between us, like an air bag, as it did often, and not just with me. He was easy to be with, and safe. He often quipped about his profession, the noble art of house painting, by saying, “Women like a man in uniform.”

Personality can be hard to define, but when you are up close to a unique one, you know it. With Pat there was this casual, relaxed honesty that included a keen wit, a self-effacing humor and a willingness to let the “somebody slot” be filled by somebody besides him. The “somebody slot” is that opening which occurs when people talk,  an opening for one of the parties to be important. Pat gave other people room to be the star around him — he even invited it. This invitation, this ease, this opportunity —  it rubbed off on you, like fresh paint, a kind of fluid sociality, with no rules.

I told Pat once, “I’m my worst self around you.” We laughed. It was a compliment.

Everybody has one, a personality,  but not everyone lets it out to play. It would be nice if they did, and not just the extroverts. Personality is fun to experience, in ourselves and others. Shy is good, when we to see it peek out, a subtle, beautiful demeanor, lovely in the same way as deer.  And loud is good too. Loud is like a sunflower shouting its bright yellow.  And there are so many fun personalities! I  love gentle, sincere, kind selves.  I especially like droll, sarcastic or wry personalities.

I also like sass, sometimes. “If you don’t like me, there is something wrong with you,” one of my young friends quipped to me recently. I like her.

What is personality? Personality is the tuxedo of the soul.

Personality is our inner self showing up in our outer clothing. Personality dresses itself in gestures, postures, animations, idiosyncrasies and vocalizations. My cat, Shanaynay, has more personality that most three people combined. She yowls, huffs, purrs, begs, greets and deftly inserts herself into any possible opportunity given to play, eat, snuggle or snooze with anyone!

Personality is the expression of the unique self that arrises out of the distinctive core — like magna oozing from the earth. When we encounter it in others, it leaves us with a whiff of them, their cachet, their mark, their social signature. This is deep; it is spiritual; it is residue of the image of God in us.

When I left one of my older friends recently I could still smell her social perfume in the air after she was gone. It was the  fragrance “graciousness,” with sweet, woody notes of gentleness and non-judgment.

But in any one person, we must be careful not to constrain or warp their personality by labels and categories. Personality is a complex kind of thing, made up out of traits and states that swirl together and separate again like the Northern lights. Traits in us persist, but states (as in “I’m in such a state”) come and go. This morning, for a moment, I was grouchy. It left me shortly. The moment of grouch is normal for all of us, and so is the moment of temporary insanity, but these moments do not and should not define us.

But say they do, the dark moods, begin to define us. It’s possible. Something caustic, cynical, critical, mean and dark may overtake us. Then we should get help, and change, as a form of mercy, for the rest of the living, or if we cannot, we should at least remain at home — and not post on Facebook.

Personality can change, heal as it were. Mine has. Thirty years ago, “cautiously reserved” might have fit me. Now, at times, ” wild and crazy” might be much more suitable.  The wall flower may one day climb the wall. I have a friend who is basically shy, but she is getting good at speech making. Out of her shy person she is learning to bring a new, public persona of confidence.

But whether it morphs or not, personality, in all its diverse forms, is something to savor, like a good wine, in ourselves and others. It is also something to learn to give, as a gift, to ourselves and others.

If I could do anything for the many fearful people whom I know, it would be to set them free to be all that God originally designed them to be — unique personalities. Their personalities might yet be the secret sauces of their success.