Ever plan a simple, in-town date and have it turn out every bit as wonderful as a well-planned fancy night out in the big city? I love when that happens.
On a recent Friday night, my husband and I head for our local state college’s Center for Arts and History to indulge in a poetry reading. Sean Thomas Dougherty is in town, an East Coast poet with a penchant for pool halls.
I get to reconnect with some English professors from whom I’ve taken poetry and fiction classes a few years ago. It’s a small but appreciative crowd at the reading.
Sean is wonderful to listen to. I’ve never witnessed a poet use cadence as he does, swinging his arm and snapping his finger to find the rhythm before he literally steps up to the mike and into the poem.
One piece is written to match a soulful jazz piece. Miles Davis, I think.
Such heart. The man understands the blue collar worker, the folks who labor on shifts, people who don’t have much in the way of money, but they have a life. They matter.
Between poems, he says this:
Even when life is hard, there is still joy. We have relationships. We have love.
Sean talks with us afterwards as I buy one of his books, All You Ask for is Longing. I explain that we work for a pregnancy resource center, that we regularly see situations where outsiders might make the judgment call,
This baby shouldn’t be brought into the world.
I tell him how it bothers me that people figure if a life is going to be hard, it isn’t worth giving that one a shot.
Sean has the best giggle, especially for writing about such pain and pathos.He brightens as I talk, and agrees, animated.
There’s always hope!
He signs the book, always an amazing feat when done while fielding questions and random remarks. We say our goodbyes.
Book in hand, Scott and I wander across the street to the Blue Lantern for a bite of dessert, a cup of tea and glass of wine. There’s a bluegrass band playing called “Wanigan,” our friend Jason on the fiddle.
Another treat, this one unexpected.
The band is set up just inside the big curved picture window. Lighthearted music fills the high-ceilinged room. People tap their feet and bounce their heads. Children are dancing.
The waitress with the long pony-tail and tattoo sleeve is smiling and laughing as she serves customers their beverages.
We settle at a small table near the rear, sipping and sharing bites as we watch and listen to the band.
And then it hits me, an epiphany so powerful I begin to weep.
People are so very beautiful.
I see exactly what Sean is talking about. I see joy. I see love. I see human beings in their God-given glory enjoying each other and their lives.
I see people the way Jesus sees people. And they take my breath away.
So often, I see only the brokenness. I see the pain, the heartache, whatever isn’t going right. I become a victim of compassion fatigue, an ironic casualty in the war against despair.
But not on this night. This night, Jesus opens my eyes through the words of an Irish poet with a chap cap and a twinkle in his eyes.
I flip open the book to read the inscription again,
For Susanne / who speaks the poem / holy tongues / to sing through sorrow / towards joy — holy, holy, holy joy / In friendship / Brother Sean Thomas
Holy joy, indeed. Thank you, Brother Sean. Thank you, Jason and friends.
For helping me glimpse humanity, for one shining moment, as Jesus does always.
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