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Rare heart

“Come see! You’ll love this. Come quick!” I yelled down the hall from the study. “Hurry!””What is it?” She, doing kitchen things in her kitchen, called back to me at my keyboard.”Just come down here. Come now!”Outside the window of my study the hollyhocks had grown to be five or six feet tall. Their stalks, festooned in a plethora of showy flowers had attracted the attention of enormous bumblebees. Bumblebees, with abdomens so large they looked cartoonish, bagged down the flowers as they lazily and loudly buzzed from one to the next.”Be there in a minute,” I heard, as she dismissed my urgency with her distracted tone.I wanted to share a small happiness. It’s always rough to be betrayed by a false friend but even worse to be calculatingly used or “played” as they say in modern terms. And played I was, like a trout on a lure of deception. Ahh, the friend who is a friend only so long as they can use you. A friend they are, only as long as you are doing them favors. They don’t count favors, of course, because they don’t do any. Takers never count favors, and they try to shame you into not noticing a strictly one-way street.I had been in deep thought a long time after this episode. What kind of world is it that is populated by self-serving mercenary people – and fools like me? Is everybody strictly out for themselves, strictly to obtain leverage over others? I’d seen it before. The selfish users of others trick earnest folks with their words. They paint pictures of the kinds of shared experiences and outings that friends have – false pictures. Such allusion to fine friendship never seems to happen. It always boils down to this: What can you do for them?We’re all happy to help a friend, at first. Then, over time vague uneasy feelings of foolishness arise. The one-sidedness of effort is brought up after two or three months of you giving and them taking. “Well, I don’t count favors,” the user will sniff, trying to shame you back into providing effort and resources for them. You feel a fool, but try a little longer. You want to be sure things are as they seem. Yup. They are.In a funk for weeks after this particular experience, I’m not one to give up on humanity, but I sure felt raw. Is anyone really a friend? Do we all strictly look out for our own interests, extracting favors, time and work from others? Hard for me to deal with the world when my fundamental optimism is so shaken by such a parasite, a user. I’d been wrestling with such thoughts for awhile and trying to get some work done when I’d gazed out the window and seen the ebullient flowers and the ponderous, methodical bumblebees.”Come see! You’ll love this!””I know,” she says from the other end of the house, with happy notes of kindness in her voice. “I know what it is, and I know why you want me there.”Like the false friend, it seems she is a plotter. She has observed and figured me out. But the information discerned has been used in an entirely different way – to be thoughtful, to be kind.”How could you know?” I ask as she comes, finally, laughing down the hall.”I planned this three months ago! Hollyhocks are tall, showy flowers that I knew would grow tall enough to be seen out your window. Our prairie bumblebees are rather predictable. I knew that you’d be up with the sun, writing, and you’d gaze out the window lost in thought. I knew you’d notice and in the noticing, call me to come see. I know my flowers, I know my bumblebees, and I know you!”Months of plotting and for such a small and incidental happiness? What sort of person would do that; get pleasure from that kind of plotting and planning? A true friend would. A genuine friend that sometimes puts me first. Such a small thing, really. So small that it’s incredibly large and real. Only my old Valentine would do such a thing.To be held in the heart of another and valued for whom we are, to know such richness of being we must be the holder to become the held, in turn. Even the false, in their crooked, hollow way, can point the way to appreciating what it is to be fully human. Tom

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