June 23, 2013 View From My Front Porch “New” Old and “New” New Isn’t it strange that people you have been around for years sometimes really do not know you? And people you have never previously met or only knew when you were a child understand you after one conversation? I have pondered this conundrum for a while now, or rather, ever since new people have come into my life. I boil it down to a few things. One, there is reception. There are some who are open to people and have no past biases. This applies to both folks who come from your past (and who might have thought that you were poor, rich, snotty, skinny, fat, ugly, pretty as a child) or from far away places. If you offer kindness, they accept it as such versus when there is the cloud of past family alliances, for example, and a kindness can be seen as an empty gesture. Share a plant with me today, discredit me tomorrow. This reception also implies willingness to entertain new ideas and ways of thinking. Put two strangers together from wildly different backgrounds with a disposition to embrace divergent interests, and you get a heck of a great experience! Put an open mind with another that can only remain inside the proverbial box and you have two people who may leave with wildly different impressions. One might think the other eccentric or odd. The other, well, let’s just say he or she may not exactly come out being challenged or stimulated. Then there is number two. There may be people in your life who do not share generosity of heart. You can make excuses for their behavior because you enjoy having them around, but in reality, they don’t reciprocate with equal measure. They probably think they share very much, and to some extent they do. Surely, generosity is more than giving of things. It is sharing of the heart. It is trust and openness. It is willingness to be a friend even when it may not be convenient to both parties. But it is also a sharing of the burden of entertaining, of hosting. Social graciousness requires reciprocity in some manner, shape, or form. Reception and generosity also presuppose openness, which is my third point. Like it or not, some people are willing to share of themselves. Past foibles, mistakes, stories, lives. Two “new” olds from my past recently informed me that they were poor growing up. Very poor. One had food stamps, the other open sewage outside her house. I told them that in all honesty, I never knew that. I never learned to view people in terms of what they had or didn’t have. They thought I was rich. I laughed and told them I wanted to change places with most people I knew who had more than two bedrooms for six people piled on top of each other, literally. I even hurt my mother’s feelings once when I told her I wanted to be in a different family. (I wanted to eat dinner on nice china at a dining room table and go on real vacations.) In their estimation I had more, but I just didn’t see it. We each had our burdens; theirs discrimination for being poor, mine for the reverse. These left chips on our shoulders, chips that we carry to this day. In a recent visit by one of my “new” old friends, our past stories shared, the real fun began. She told me tales of my hometown that I had never known. She, coming of age during the hippie era, saw things and experienced things I could only read about. Oh, I remember her with her bellbottom, embroidered jeans and hippie headband. I thought her to be the epitome of high school coolness when I was a girl. She said she was mainly an observer, a sideline participant privy to many of the “far out” experiences of her generation, and she made no apologies for the mistakes she made along the way. I admired her for her openness as well as the great stories she had to tell. She had me thoroughly entertained. Another “new” old friend is my sounding board. I can only speak for myself, but from our first conversation we were the best of friends. Immediate. Love at first sight. She, the one with the food stamp background, the one I never dreamed growing up had so much spunk and veracity, brings a whole new perspective into my life. I wish sometimes that we had been the same age or had lived closer growing up, for surely we would’ve found each other sooner. Then there is my “new” new friend, the one who came here for a different life and embraced the quietness and simplicity of our town. She talks about her past experiences, good and bad, with a candor that is refreshing. She is generous of heart and home in the clichéd way of the Southern lady, though she is not one by birth or upbringing. (She just pulls it off better than most of us who barely left!) Yesterday, when friendships became more complicated for one of my daughters to handle, I said these things aloud and realized that I wanted to share my thoughts in essay form. I told her not to give up on friends but to allow relationships to change, waxing and waning as life events occur. I reminded her of the “new” olds and the “new” news in my life and asked her keep her heart and mind open. You just never know when someone will come into your life and give it a whole new dimension. You just never know.