SGLY: Such a thing

By Tiffany Chartier
Special to the Prosper Press

I am a little bit Audrey Hepburn with a splash of Katharine. Stylistically, I have been told that I am a “tailored flower child” (if there can be such a thing). By today’s standards, I am old-fashioned. My kids were raised on God and good manners, and I learned from the best: my parents.

I crave what I suspect most do — genuine connections in a disconnected world. Is there such a thing? I recently joined a Facebook group for women of my age from around the globe. A common posted theme is the lack of friendships. Genuine friendships. There seems to be a shortage of reciprocating connections that mutually uplift and actively listen and engage. After raising kids, many adults are left with an empty house and empty relationships. Whether divorced, widowed, or living unnoticed in the company of another, there is a common theme of being lonely despite being busy. Some have no one to share with — a “someone” whom they can laugh with — a “someone” who sees that person beyond what they can do for them.

This past weekend the weather was gorgeous. So much in fact that this “tailored flower child” went to an outdoor arts festival for a few hours. Staying at home felt like I was cheating the day, so despite being tired, I collected myself and my journal and stepped into a crowd of people. Alone.

Upon my arrival, I watch a singer make his way to a modest platform. He sets up directly in front of me, tuning his guitar. His hands are shaking, and I cannot help but notice he is sweating far too much for such a cool day. For some reason, I feel connected to him. I sense his nervousness and doubt, and I wish to tell him it will be okay. Instead, I pull up a chair and listen.

He begins without introduction, singing a song he later professed he wrote himself. “Seems even in later chapters, we’re still trying to find our best,” he sings in such a way that it feels more like a confession than a melody. When he sings, he closes his eyes, and I imagine he has often sung this song alone in his private quarters. And at this moment, I sense he is doing the same. He is alone. He is alone singing to a crowd of distracted people.

The more he performs, the more I close my eyes. I dance and twirl in my mind. I feel both happiness and sadness. Music has a way of surfacing emotions we hide behind the veil. Some of his songs make me think of my family, my childhood, and my future. I feel painfully thankful (believe me, there is such a thing), and I believe in his own ways, so does the singer.

Before he leaves the stage, the singer apologizes for missing a few chords here and there. But I hadn’t heard what he missed; instead, I received what he gave: a genuineness. And as he put his guitar in his case, I walked over to him.

“Thank you,” I say. “You were wonderful.”

He turns around and I notice straight away that he is trying not to cry. I had startled him, and he was immediately embarrassed. “Sorry,” he says, rubbing his eyes. “What did you say?”

“Are you okay?”

He runs his hand through his scruffy hair. He didn’t bother wiping his wet eyes again. He just stands before me, vulnerable. “Yes. I’m okay, thank you. Better than okay. This is the first time in almost two years that I’ve been able to perform on stage again. Being able to sing for others again… well, COVID has given me a lot of time to write. Too much time. Looking at your thoughts on paper can be sobering. For me, it was. Literally.”

I look behind him at the wooden pallet he called a stage. I got it. I understood.

“I didn’t always look like this, you know?” He rubs his palms on his baggy jeans. “I had people tell me before that I look like Keanu Reeves,” he laughs. “Now I look like ‘The Dude’ from The Big Lebowski.”

“Hmm, I see a very talented artist. Your music kept me company, and I’m thankful you shared it with me today. You have a gift.”

“Yeah, that’s what my parents always tell me.” His shoulders straightened just a bit.

“Well, your parents are right.”

Walking through a crowd to return to my car, I glimpse the world returning to itself in small ways — people finding and appreciating one another once again. I pray we return better: better to ourselves and to one another.

We are in desperate need of compassion rather than controversy — more real connections and less division. We need a mighty thing called hope — there is such a thing, but we must find it again and utilize it by demonstrating courage, faith, optimism, trust, and confident expectations.

As we begin to emerge from isolation, how will you return and what will you return to? May we challenge ourselves to return to God and good manners, hope and compassion. And may we use this time as an opportunity to build and nurture genuine connections, making the world a little less disconnected, beginning with the people who cross our path today.

SGLY, dear reader.

(Smile, God Loves You.)

Tiffany Kaye Chartier

Tiffany Kaye Chartier is a Christian author and opinion columnist. Submit feedback and connect for more soul lifts on Facebook: Tiffany Kaye Chartier; Instagram:@tiffanysgly; and Twitter: @tiffanychartier. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.