Last year, David stopped by my home to wish me a happy 47th birthday. He pulled right in the driveway, knocked on the door, and extended his wishes for me to my husband and my daughter. I was not expecting him, and was, as is often the situation, out of town. He only stayed a little while, but even hearing Thomas tell of his visit made me feel valued and honored.
David is a man who many would say has a disability – the kind of disability which people would assume makes him unable to connect closely to others in a social relationship. I see him a few times a year at events held by my Quaker meeting. One thing people know about David is that he remembers birthdays. Everyone’s birthdays. A little stereotypical, I know, but it is true.
He drove 90 minutes round trip to my home to wish me a happy birthday on October 22, 2011.
I always wanted to have a “drop-by” kind of home – where people feel welcome to stop by, drop in, and share my household and family life here and there. I experienced this for a little while when we lived in a more urban area, with lots of people close by and a “neighbor culture” where privacy had a lower value, and informal connection a greater value.
I loved not knowing who might be in my kitchen having a glass of wine or a chat with Thomas around the island in our kitchen. I loved pulling in the driveway at the end of the day, and being greeted by a few people sitting on the porch together, sharing and talking.
You make your choices, I guess. Nowadays, we live in the woods, nearly 45 minutes from any population center, in a neighborhood which deeply values privacy and immediate family ties. This makes my dream of a hub of activity, a buzz of community, centering in my home, unlikely and hard to create. Planning ahead and scheduling “drop-ins” is simply not the same.
These days, Facebook and its ilk seems to substitute for not only any and all personally delivered birthday wishes, but also for phone calls, letters, and, sometimes, actual contact between people both in time and space. David does not Facebook. I am glad. He reminds me that, sometimes, there is no substitute for being there. Truly being there.