This past weekend, I visited friends I hadn’t seen in a very, very long time. So long, in fact, that when last we’d seen each other, none of us had any kids.
Times have changed. We spent the majority of this weekend’s visit watching our combined five children play water games in my friends’ backyard.
Naturally, I brought beer to share.
“You like IPAs, then?” my one friend said. “I’ve got something special. You got to try it.”
He disappeared into the house and reemerged five minutes later carrying three tall cans. He handed me the first and began to describe the brewery the beer was from, why this particular IPA was special and the kinds of flavors I could expect.
“Want to try it?”
“Absolutely,” I said. And we sat and split the first beer as I studied the story on the can. We talked about beer and breweries and raising kids and the future and before I knew it three hours had passed. (And three beer cans were empty.)
It was a simple act of hospitality. But it was something, more, too. Because I do the same thing: When someone comes to my home interested in beer or bourbon or Star Wars LEGO or anything that I, too, love, I find myself eager to share it. To share the story of it. To share the experience of it.
To share the fellowship of it.
C.S. Lewis, in his wonderful book, “The Four Loves,” talks about friendship. He writes:
“Friendship arises…when two or more…discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which…till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure. The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.’” (p 65)
I love that bit of imagined dialogue. What?!? You TOO?? And then the curse of loneliness is lifted and the love of another floods in to replace it.
I use this passage from Lewis’ book quite often when giving talks or retreats. And I’ve always described it as two individuals sitting on the side of a mountain looking out over the horizon and noticing the same thing in the distance. Their eyes settle on a common sight, and they rejoice in discovering a shared love out there and right here between us. I think that’s where bridges are built in our stories and shared values and hopes and dreams are discovered.
But in that image that I’ve held to, the two friends are static, sitting, looking out beyond themselves. What this weekend’s beer swap reminded me was that we don’t just sit and look; we’re also active participants in our world and in our relationships. We listen deeply to one another, reflect on our own experiences, and then act accordingly.
We make an offering from our own lives, something that we humbly hold up to our would-be friend. Something significant to us, something we hope will breed that moment of shared experience. “I hear you — and I have a beer I think you’ll like.”
And from that simple act, we open up the opportunity to say, “What? You too? So I’m not the only one.” A shared place of safety and comfort and community is formed, if even for a moment.
Isn’t that what Jesus so often did? Didn’t Jesus hold up simple items — bread and fish and wine and oil — and invite those around him to a shared experience? Didn’t he invite friends and strangers alike to see through those simple objects to the God who desired their friendship?
Doesn’t Jesus remind us still today that God delights in our shared experiences of ritual and community and life?
Eric A. Clayton is the award-winning author of Cannonball Moments: Telling Your Story, Deepening Your Faith (Loyola Press) and the deputy director of communications at the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. His essays on spirituality, parenting and pop culture have appeared in America Magazine, National Catholic Reporter, U.S. Catholic, Busted Halo and more, and he is a regular contributor to Give Us This Day, IgnatianSpirituality.com and Dork Side of the Force, where he blogs about Star Wars. His fiction has been published by Black Hare Press, the World of Myth Magazine and more. He lives in Baltimore, MD with his wife, two young daughters and their cat, Sebastian. Sign up for his Substack “Story Scraps” here.