Friday was the day of great revelries with costumes, candies, and corpses. The one day of the year when you are allowed to be what you are not. Or is it?
In today’s society of electronic media and online social networking, we can be whomever we want to be at any time. Everyone has the tools to be a celebrity – perfect selfies, enlightening foodie shots, posting statuses perfectly crafted to make every moment as dramatic as possible. That is what people see. That is what we want people to see. But it isn’t everything.
What people don’t see is the number of shots it took to capture that perfect selfie. Or how cold the food got while we posed for a shot, evaluated and made someone take it again. Or how that status is really only a half truth, real circumstances manipulated to make us look better, or worse, depending on your flair for dramatics. We are crafting an image with each picture, each word, each hashtag. We are building a culture of relationships founded on celebrity-ism instead of real life. We are hiding, but who are we hiding from? And why?
Let me introduce you to Sam*. Sam is a member of our community group. He struggles to understand social norms and does not have as much mental capacity as what is considered normal. His abusive past contributes to his struggle to relate and trust people. He can be a difficult person to include even though he deeply desires to be included.
Why is Sam so difficult to include? Because he demands that you be present with him. That’s hard – it’s uncomfortable! As with many people with special needs, a conversation with him requires your full attention. His words are slightly slurred and his sentences not always cohesive. If you are to listen, understand, and engage him where he is at in a way in which he feels valued, you cannot be on your cellphone or slightly distracted.
People like Sam remind us of the beauty of life’s imperfections and how to be present with people in those imperfections. Because we all have them, no matter what our Instagram shows. It is life’s imperfections and our own brokenness from which we are hiding and the labor it requires to engage with each other in them. But relationships are not founded in presenting each other with fake perfection, no matter how easy that may be. True, life-giving relationships will only grow when we are present with each other in our brokenness. And that, I think is much more worthwhile than being a celebrity. Plus, no one really cares what you ate for dinner last night. Or, at least they shouldn’t.
*Name has been changed.