Habits Of Companionship -- By: Jo Kadlecek

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 14:1 (Winter 2000)
Article: Habits Of Companionship
Author: Jo Kadlecek

Habits Of Companionship

Jo Kadlecek

Jo Kadlecek’s columns on urban, cross-cultural and religious issues have been widely published. Her books include Resurrecting Hope with Dr. John Perkins and Feast of Life: Spiritual Food for Balanced Living. This article is adapted from I Call You Friend: Four Women’s Stories of Race, Faith, and Friendship (Broadman & Holman, 1999) with the author’s permission.

I used to hate the word lonely. Where I came from, to say you were lonely was to admit weakness. Even to utter the word was to confess vulnerability. You were exposed, out of control. And maybe a little incompetent. God forbid a white, educated, middle-class woman from the great American West should be incompetent!

I could not let the word lonely squeak past my lips for years. In my teens, it wasn’t included in my vocabulary. Now at forty, I know that to say the word lonely is simply honest.

I need people. Honest. Truth is, I am not self-sufficient, though I used to think so. I am not able to handle life alone. Never have, never will. All-American independence is a myth. And a sin.

What is real, I’ve learned, is that we’ve been created with an inherent need to have flesh, bones, and language surrounding us in breathing, feeling containers scientists call homo sapiens. I have other, more recognizable names for them: friends, spouses, neighbors, sisters, peers, colleagues, grandmas, allies, pastors, brothers, bosses, coaches, teachers, nieces, and so on. They come in little, big, wide, or thin sizes and are brown, pale, dark, gray, or yellow on the outside. As long as there’s red blood running through them and a heart that’s pumping it from head to toe, they qualify. Human beings. Friends. People. Community. God’s masterpiece. I need them. It’s the plain and simple truth.

Puritan writer Nathaniel Hawthorne said it as if he knew me: “It contributes greatly towards a [wo]man’s moral and intellectual health, to be brought into habits of companionship with individuals unlike himself, who care little of his pursuits, and whose sphere and abilities he must go out of himself to appreciate.”

And so I got out of suburbia’s grip, the one that often mistakes space, grass, and big houses for “the good life” and went searching for other “spheres and abilities.” Maybe I’d find them in the city. What drove me out of comfort-land, out of suburban life, wasn’t any noble cause or radical agenda as much as it was a personal ache for relationships.

Besides the fact that I had always loved being in the city, I moved into Denver’s inner-city neighborhood for two reasons. First, I genuinely wanted to be clo...

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