Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Finding a Way Forward

About a month ago, the Treasurer of the Fulford Bowls club passed on--a man named Brian who was 89 years old, had proposed twice but both times was returned a negative and never married, and whose gentle smile led to easy sharing, kind encouragement. Each Thursday evening, as I talked with Brian, it was easy to see a certain longing in him: a great love of children, yet never having his own; a great love of community, yet never creating one inside his home.

The Fulford Indoor Bowls Club, then, was his route to connection. He began the club in 1984, and had served as Treasurer ever since. When I first met Brian, his words, "Welcome, now your first two sessions are free, so make sure you don't pay" were indeed music to my ears. And over the past year and a half, as I've had the chance to get to know so many men and women of an older generation, something about Brian has always captivated me.

He didn't storm the beaches of Normandy like others in the Bowls crew.

He didn't almost lose a daughter at age two.

He didn't travel to five continents and possess stories galore to make those journeys reverberate as if they were still occurring today.

Instead, Brian's story was quiet, as was his voice and even his stroll. The subtext of his words spoke to me about a man who had tried hard in this life--sought love and ended up creating a community every way he knew how. Even though it wasn't his ideal, it worked, and it brought a lot of connection and joy to others as well.

As I now try to balance the books for the Bowls club--an English major and poetry-loving teacher--I find that the numbers don't always add up for me the way they did, I'm sure, for Brian. As I hold the ledger in my hands and read through his script, each number checked with tiny dash marks in pencil, I feel a certain quietness that saunters into the room and glances over the books with me.

For Brian, even though his highest hopes never materialized, life was still beautiful because the quality of his connections ensured it. The people he treated with dignity, the stories he listened to and shared, and the quiet manner of his willingness to put his hopes into any avenue for community that he could--these all speak to the way a river finds a course. Though it runs into rocks, though it may be blocked at many turns, if it keeps seeking, then somehow it finds a way to move forward and still bring water. Like life.