Treasured connections

“What’s the goal of dialogue?” tweeted one of my fellow Catholic bloggers today. Her weekly prompt to a handful of people often yields some good reading for me. My contributions to the linkup aren’t always on point. This week is different. My online friend tapped a vein.

The goal is to connect. I don’t mean that in any poetic or imaginative way. It’s a practical thing.

I spend much of my time dealing with pro-life politics. This has been a tumultuous year. I’ve spent a great deal of time in prayer, not to get “holy-fied,” to quote a sharp-witted friend, but in order to stay focused on what’s Absolute.  Mass, adoration, Year of Mercy meditations, and private prayer guided me in that direction. By and large, my social media feeds didn’t.

It’s been so easy to get lost in the muck. Dialogue has given way to snark and memes. I have tried to avoid that, not always successfully.

A few weeks before the election, I resolved that I was going to spend the morning after the election at a local diner, regardless of the election results. I knew I wanted to be doing something besides moping alone at home. I invited friends. No takers at first. Then on Election Day, text messages popped up: you still doing this?…I’ll be there.

The morning after, I was eating breakfast with three friends and colleagues. I looked around the table and realized that most of my communication with them over the past few months had been faceless and brief: a text here, a tweet there, a few Facebook posts and phone calls. We had stayed in touch. Dialogue? Not so much. I didn’t know how much I had missed face-to-face communication until we sat down together, talking and listening and laughing.

We connected over the eggs and coffee in a way that I hadn’t connected with anyone online during the course of the campaign season. We invested time in each other that morning, intentionally. We listened to each other. Dialogue, connection.

There’s currently a bitter, raw taste to all things political, even close to home. I look back on that breakfast now and realize that even in that safest of spaces, at a table with people whose work I respect, dialogue and connection ensued only because we chose to be present and chose to listen. Let me add: chose to laugh.

The value of presence, listening, and good humor: I will forget it only at my peril as I head back to the State House again next year to appeal to legislators to defend the right to life.

Was there some divine spark that nudged me to that morning-after breakfast? Can I blame all those Divine Mercy chaplets? That might be claiming a bit much. What I know is that an hour at a diner proved to be a blessing and a reminder and a gentle lesson. Pray that I’ll bring that lesson with me when I’m in less-sheltered places.