Losing the pool this summer was a humbling experience. I had repaired it before and got it working properly again, so I knew in my heart I was capable of salvaging it. But everyone was against me. The city was convinced that I was a deadbeat letting it slide and simply lying about it taking a long time because illness and financial reversals were slowing me down. My family was against me because they no longer had any confidence that I could still do it, and they feared me killing myself in the attempt. And then Bank of America won their lawsuit and prevented me from paying for the effort, thoroughly punishing me for the mistaken notion that I had any right to get myself out of medical debt even with the help of a lawyer. And the electrical problems, which I could not correct myself, put the pool restoration out of reach. I failed to do what I knew in my heart I was capable of. I failed. I was the only one who believed I could do it, and I only managed to prove everybody else right.
But Michael Jackson’s somewhat creepy nudie video with the weird Maxfield Parrish parody in it is actually a theme song for what I learned about myself. I was alone in the pool-restoration struggle. But I am not alone in life. I will never be alone, even if somehow I ended up the last person alive on the planet. Because we are all connected. We are all a part of one thing. We are not alone, even when we are.
I think I learned that best from my Grandmother, Mary A. Beyer. She was a rock-solid believer in Jesus through the pragmatic Midwestern arm of the Methodist Church. She also gradually became an isolated, lonely individual, living by herself in Mason City, Iowa. Grandpa Beyer died in his fifties, when I was about ten. Great Grandpa Raymond, who lived with them for as long as I can remember, passed away a few years later. But she was never really alone. Jesus Christ was a real person to her. She read her Bible and her weekly copies of the Methodist publication, The Upper Room, constantly. And she was always a central part of our lives. Christmases at Grandma Beyer’s place are deeply woven into the fabric of my memory. The bubble lights on the Christmas tree, the carefully saved and re-used wrapping paper from the 1940’s, the hot cocoa, and Christmas specials on her RCA color TV… I still draw strength and love from those things, and from her faith, even after almost twenty years pretending Christmas was evil as a Jehovah’s Witness. Simple truth and faith shared are some of those essential things that bind us together even though they are invisible to the eye. My Grandma Beyer is still with me even when I am fighting off the pool harpies all by myself because the things she taught me and the love she had for me still live in me, still affect who I am and how I act and what I truly believe in.
I am not alone.
And you aren’t either. I am here for you. I value you as human being. God tells me I should, even though God is probably not real, and I believe Him, even though I am a fool who probably really doesn’t know anything And it is true even if I do not know you and never met you. Heck, you may be reading this after I am long dead. And it is still true. Because we have shared life on this planet together. We are both humans. We both think and feel and read and believe stuff. And I love you. Because my Grandma taught me that I should, just as someone, somewhere in your life taught you.
You are not alone.