It started with an early wakeup call, a notebook full of songs, and two hands full of black and white piano keys.
We drove through the hills in the early morning sunlight, not knowing what to expect.
When we reached our destination we were greeted by an ocean of Subaru Foresters. I had to chuckle to myself. "Dang liberals," driving a bunch of crunchy cars to their crunchy campsite. We parked our Subaru next to all the others and checked in.
I've given myself away already, haven't I? I said that I didn't know what to expect, but to the truth is, I had lots of expectations. I expected to find a bunch of Subarus parked across from the festival grounds. I expected to see people dressed a certain way. I expected people to be there, agreeing with each other, at home in their likemindedness. And that's what I thought I wanted, in a way. I'm going to make like Nadia Bolz Weber now and "lead by way of self incrimination" (by the way, she says she also calls this leadership tactic: "screw it, I'll go first!"). In other words, I'm going to admit to you some of the ways I struggle in the hopes that we can all be a little less defensive as we consider some things.
In my daily life I'm the token "crazy liberal" - usually surrounded by folks who love me in spite of some of my political leanings and some of my theological opinions. Where I live it's almost unfathomable that a person with "liberal" ideals could believe in God or know Jesus without being somewhat heretical. I've been watching the work of the Wild Goose Festival for several years now, thinking to myself, "I need to go and be where other people will be like me. I want to take part in that conversation." My loneliness has often made me long to come here.
Because of the isolation I often experience due to my "beliefs" I become a bit hard hearted. A bit defensive. Hard to talk to and wary of sharing my life or my family's life with others. I make lots of assumptions and unhealthy generalizations in my mind.
Upon entering the festival grounds I felt almost instantly convicted about my daily life - my inability to meet people where they are and to hear their stories rather than categorizing them based on sets of "beliefs" I suspect they have. I felt convicted about the way I've often buttoned my lips, avoiding the sharing of truth or commonality . . . embracing my own old scars instead.
Today I learned a few things about letting walls down.
My sister and I wandered over to the cafe stage where I knew I'd be performing. We met the girl from the act before mine, which was just fantastic (have you ever seen anybody play piano and hammered dulcimer at the same time?!? It's cool). We met a guy who was set to go on a few hours after me and had a great conversation about prophetic writing and hope. We met volunteers and crew members who were sharing open hearts and hands with performers and festival goers. We were not a bunch of identical hippy people (although lots of us did drive Subarus to the festival). We were just people. And all the folks I've known over the years who have agreed and disagreed are just people. It's my broken heart and the chip on my shoulder that make them seem like anything other than that.
Seats and tables were few and far between when lunchtime rolled around. We crashed somebody's picnic table, awkwardly asking, "Is there room for us at your table?" (by the way, sharing tables, seats, and stories appears to be the Wild Goose way and we LOVE it).
A beautiful lady looked up at me and graciously said, "Yes! Sit down." I did. I was drawn quickly into a conversation with Kay and Sarah (with an "h", just like me), two lovely Episcopalians who are members of the LGBTQ community. They listened to my sister and I tell some of our story and then they shared their story with us. We didn't discuss any of our "beliefs." We discussed our lives. We talked about our shared love of choral music (Sarah loves the Brahms Requiem about as much as I do!) and our shared experience of wondering about other denominational traditions in adulthood. We talked about kids and grandkids. We talked about the things that make us human. We did all of this talking at a table, breaking bread together. Friends, we had communion. The conversation came to a close with hugs and promises to keep in touch.
We met a bunch of other introverts who were joking about introversion: "Yes, here I am with my book, being alone with all these people here at this big festival!"
We seemed to recognize all of these strangers as long lost family . . . all of us looking different, sounding different, coming from different places. Community. Commonality. Communion.
As we walked away from lunch, on our way to hear one of our new friends play some tunes, we passed another gathering where a speaker was challenging the audience to:
"Learn each other's stories rather than learning each other's opinions about things. Get to know each other as people before you get into a political debate. Learn about who your neighbor is and allow them to know who you are."
That's not always easy. But day 1 of the 2017 Wild Goose Festival has reminded me that there was a time when I moved through the world that way - open hearted. I grew up in a beautiful United Methodist Church, encircled by a community that actively poured love and light into my life. As all of my future thoughts and opinions were forming (by way of my human experience) I never stopped to think about the fact that most of these folks who were loving me and raising me believed things differently than my family. Voted differently than my family. I was so accepted and so loved by them . . . why should I stop to think of it?
Community. Commonality. Communion.
We have a long way to go, friends. The world is full of need and miscommunication. Greed is real. Hatred is real. Most of the "isms" are real. Systemic problems are real. So maybe step 1 is a lot like our Wild Goose Day 1. Maybe step 1 isn't an argument. Maybe step 1 is a communion table. Maybe step 1 is a story and the choice to break bread with somebody who seems "other." Maybe step 1 is admitting our own faults and flaws . . . "Screw it, I'll go first!" hahaha.
Jesus was the master of telling a good story, right? Stories, shared meals, and deep love heal us of our blindness regarding one another's humanity. I'm the queen of ignoring somebody's humanity if I disagree with them. God has to heal my blindness on a regular basis.
I am, once again, humbled lower than the ground by the opportunity to see more of God's kids because of music. The performance I did today is almost nothing in the face of the beautiful tapestry God is weaving. The music is beautiful, yes, but it's only ever a door, and today when I stepped through it I was greeted by long lost family I didn't know I'd been missing.