I have a friend who shows up early whenever I throw a party. Just a bit before it officially starts. And when he arrives, we pregame together while my nesting partner puts the finishing touches on the food. We sit and have a drink, catch up on old news.
My friend shows up early knowing that he’ll see behind the scenes. He won’t get to experience that Party House Magic. He knows that things won’t quite be ready or picked up. That at any moment I might have to attend to something practical or that he might be asked to help. It’s like seeing the Disney World mascots with the heads off their costumes.
And to other hosts, this friend arriving early could be interpreted as a sign of rudeness — except I know why he does it.
The very first house party I threw many years ago, back when I lived in Maine, I invited all of my closest friends. At the time, this was 12 people. Everyone RSVPed. And I was so excited. I cooked a giant pot of chili, enough to feed 20 folks. Just in case everyone wanted to eat a lot. I decorated the house. Even came up with activities, like I was a freaking party planner.
But when it came to party time, only one person showed up. And to their credit, the sole guest ate an awful lot of chili. Stayed later than they might have normally. They seemed just as uncomfortable with the no-shows as I did and overcompensated by being the most enthusiastic guest possible.
But I spent the following week eating chili for every meal, meals that tasted like disappointment. Loneliness. I felt like a fool.
And even though that was a very long time ago, every time I throw a party, I worry that it’ll be a repeat of that first one. Or that even worse, I won’t even get one party guest.
I told that story to my friends here in Ohio, a bit after I moved out here. Confessed to them that I’m a bit of a wreck while waiting for the first guest, envisioning a party that no one attends.
One of them took my words deeply to heart. And now he comes to the house a little bit before the party officially starts, so I don’t have to even worry that no one will show up. So I’ll know that I’ll have guests. That people want to hang out with me.
The funny thing about this friend is that he’s awfully hard on himself in general. He doesn’t seem to always feel like he fits in or that people think much of him. I get the impression that he feels forgotten or lost in the crowd.
But he’s made such a huge impact on me in his kindness and his consideration.
I Was Forged in Heartbreak, It’s What I Expect
Some people think the best way to make a lasting impact on someone is to play games. Hurt them. Break their heart.
But not me.
I was forged in heartbreak.
I lived for years among people who were mostly cold, lacked empathy. People who had trouble thinking clearly while their own emotions churned. Who were always drowning and when you tried to save them had no qualms about plunging you underwater to keep their own head above the waves for just a few seconds longer.
So it’s no surprise, really, when someone hurts me. When they’re petty, selfish, short-sighted, unkind. That’s old news. To me, that’s how “normal” people act. Randos. You know, the movie extras, not the starring roles.
If you want to make a lasting impact on me, the surest way is kindness, not letting me down.
Like my wonderful friends who accept me with all my quirks and do their best to help me be a little bit less of a mess. John arriving early to parties. Fluffy’s counsel. Or Gull’s.
Or my partners: Justin’s unwavering love and support. Ro’s stability and benevolence.
They’ve all thwarted my expectations in the best way — and it’s not something you soon forget.
It’s just like how I remember the readers best who were kind, while the trolls sink into dark obsolescent waters.
Cruelty Is a Tourist, But Your Kindness Is the Monument
There are people out there who want to carry happiness away. Like tourists picking up a monument one rock at a time.
Pain is their souvenir. And they think that having this keepsake means they’ll be remembered too.
But that’s not the way it works.
To me, they are just another faceless stranger in a fanny pack.
And you are the monument. Your kindness, your love, your patience, your gentle care.
It’s all I remember.