I’m a crowd watcher. As a rather introverted individual, I find crowd watching much preferable to actually drawing people into open conversation–much less threatening to my quiet and mundane existence, I guess. It also entails a lot less energy and allows you to stay comfortably in the middle of your comfort zone; no messy entanglements involved.
On my studio wall, I have a card, signed by dozens of friends and given to me after my cancer treatment. The card reads: “Life–live like you mean it,” and was given to me by a very dear friend–the only known-by-me person who went on my recent adventure to Kenya–my dear friend, Jenn. It was the motto I wanted to live by after facing down death, in the form of cancer, almost four years ago. And yet, somehow, I’m still just watching crowds.
Jenn and I left the Atlanta airport around 1pm, and then landed in Newark to connect with four of the other women on the trip–our leader was already in Kenya awaiting our arrival.
After we met up with Sheri, she and Jenn carried on a lively getting-to-know-you kind of conversation as we ate lunch–and I watched the crowds. I conversed only enough to not seem too distant, rude or uninterested; after all, as a crowd watcher, Jenn and Sheri were definitely part of the overall observation experience and I was quite interested in their conversation as well as the crowds around us. Just not to the point of entering their sphere of intimacy, I guess.
Besides, I was thrilled with the crowd I was watching. Still in my own country, just a few hundred miles from where I live, I was watching a tiny microcosm of the greater world. People from all walks of life, in all kinds of costume, with all kinds of interesting behaviors had gathered in this place to travel to and from–anywhere, everywhere. People from Europe; people from the Middle East; Orthodox Jews dressed all in black; women in Amish attire–people, quite frankly, from everywhere.
One woman, dressed all in pink from her head to her shoes, clearly one of my Pink Sisters (fellow breast cancer survivor)–either still going through chemo or newly released to the world of treatment-free living as her head was covered in a very attractive bright pink turban–was rather slowly walking down the hall; a tired but satisfied smile on her face. Two elderly people, side by side, in old, worn clothes, carrying old, worn vintage suitcases–the kind from the early 50s–bent and slow and very care-worn, travelling from who knows where to who knows where. All types of people.
As I watched all these people converging in a tiny mass of humanity within the walls of the Newark Liberty International Airport, I thought about the group of women I would be spending the next two weeks with, while in Kenya–a world away from home. We were seven women, from all parts of the country, from various generations of life. Three in their 20s, three in their 40s, and one in her early 60s. Some married, some single. Some with children grown, one with a baby, some with no children at all. Career women, students, retired women and stay-at-home moms.
Seven different women with seven different lives coming together to spend time in a country not our own, to learn and grow and create relationship–with each other and with the people we would meet along the way. People who also were from all walks of life. Missionaries, ministers, businessmen. Widows, orphans, school children. Women, men and children. Talking, sharing, learning, growing. Beginning as strangers. Leaving as friends.
This was the journey I was on–the journey all seven of us were on. To find community half a world away from our own. To make strangers into friends. A messy and somewhat intimidating experience for a very introverted lifelong crowd watcher; but so much richer and rewarding, don’t you think?