Imbolc Recovery Moon
Two people liked my chicken soup, well, two I know for sure. No, wait, four. Kate and I like it, too. I didn’t win the CBE chicken-soup cook-off but it was a hell of a lot of fun. A couple I talked to early on asked me about my soup and I told them I got the recipe off the back of a Gold’n Plump chicken. Somehow, from my description of my recipe, they figured out which one was mine. And voted for it. Bless their hearts. The woman who won was a bubbe, an anglicized version of the Yiddish bobe, for grandmother.
I hadn’t been to CBE for six weeks so I saw lots of people I hadn’t seen in a while Tara, Joan Tarsarar, Elizabeth, Dan Herman, Ron Solomon, Iris Solomon, Michele and her husband (they liked my soup), lots of kids from my religious school class, Sheri, Rabbi Jamie. How’s Kate doing? Improving, I’d say, but slowly. And you had pneumonia? Yes. You sound like you have a cold. Yes, I’ve had that, too. And, it still has me. What a time it’s been for you two. I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through this. It’s been difficult, but you deal with what’s there, right?
CBE is like a small town. Maybe not everybody knows your name, but they know your face. Those who do know you approach, or you approach them. It’s like going to the Bakery in Alexandria (my hometown) after a similar situation at home. People would come up and say, “Charlie, how are you? How’s your mom?”
These seem like casual questions, usual, but they’re not. These folks will listen, and closely, if you tell them how things are. They’ll commiserate. They’ll look for something they can do. One woman, when I told her how weak Kate is and how burdened she is by oxygen tubing and carrying around the tpn bag, and followed that with an example of her calling me when the dogs escaped through the blown open front door, said, “She has my number!” Her point was that she was actually closer to Kate than I was then since I was at CBE. She lives close by and has offered to give us assistance many times.
This is what community looks like, feels like. In the end, I imagine, it doesn’t matter how you come by it. Veterans of Foreign Wars. Living in a small town. Religious community of any sort. Quilting and sewing groups. Volunteering. But we need it. Humans are pack animals. We need to be known and to know others. That happens in community. You’ve read the research I’m sure about the affect loneliness has on health. That it’s an epidemic among the senior population. Well, the cure is community.
I think of it as being seen. That is, when I walk into CBE, I’m no longer a stranger, but someone who is known. Deeper. Some of those who see me, see more deeply into my person, my life. The mussar groups. The kabbalah classes. Friendships.
If we are not seen, then we are invisible. Invisible people wither. Look at the homeless. Or, the incidence of high blood pressure among African-Americans. The invalid. It’s important to enter the chicken-soup cook-offs and their equivalents. Not to win, though of course that would be fun, but to be visible. To offer yourself to public scrutiny. Not in a weird, self-abasing way, but in a way that affirms your presence. When you show up, as my friend Bill Schimdt likes to say, others show up, too.
See and be seen. The recipe for flourishing. Eudaimonia. Better than happiness, in my opinion.