The blanket does not match anything else that I own, yet it sits in my living room. It is the quilt I reach for on chilly mornings when I spend time with God and a cup of coffee. I bought the blanket twelve years ago from a dear friend, Grandma V, an older Ojibwe woman.
We were probably quite an odd couple to behold. A tall, thirty-something professional and a diminutive, seventy-something Native American grandmother. We met through my job when she came to us as a foster grandparent. Within moments of our meeting, our hearts seemed to know we'd found (as Anne with an 'e' would say) a kindred spirit.
Grandma V reminded me of my grandmother, not only in her short stature and age but in her zest for life. She was fierce. Life had not been easy for her, but she remained (surprisingly) not bitter. V's laugh was infectious and as big as her heart. I loved hearing her having fun with the kids she was 'grandmothering,' correcting them in her goodnatured, loving way.
We would talk, when the kids weren't around, about the challenges of life. The struggles not only within races (she had married outside of her band and travelled to live in another state with her husband.) but between them. My youthful anger and frustration at the unfairness of life was tempered by her hard earned wisdom. She was not bitter, but filled with grace and determination that her children and grandchildren would rise above the small mindedness of those who try to limit their futures.
It's hard to say exactly why we bonded so quickly. Maybe our artist hearts (she did beadwork, along with quilting) were just drawn together. I would have missed the friendship altogether except...we both stepped out, clasped hands, open hearts and really looked at each other. In that moment, as I looked into the hazy, cataracted eyes of a woman forty years my senior, I saw joy, fears, hopes, and struggles.
I saw myself.
The world today scares me and I can't fix it. I worry for my children and their futures. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools." If I watch the news for too long, I start to worry we are more like the latter than the former.
Then I remember my friend Grandma V. I drink my coffee, pray, and set my heart on showing others grace and love, no matter their race, class, situation, or age.
I too will be fierce.
I will meet others with a handshake, an open heart, and really look at them and connect.
Mother Teresa is quoted as having said, "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."
I believe that to be true because, while there are many things that divide us, we all have one thing in common. We belong to each other because we are all part of the human race, fellow neighbors on this earth.
We are neighbors.
I think that's as good a place as any to start a friendship.