The Love Circle: Common Threads Between Strangers
Part 1: Common threads between strangers
I wasn’t suppose to be in this circle, seated with a friend, in a room full of strangers.
In a room of 30 people, the instructor of a workshop on love told her guests to come near. We approached this “love room” with curiosity, within a known building for actors, singers, and the like we entered, Ripley Griers Studios in New York. It was a lazy Saturday for some adventure, with my friend and I.
Convinced that the deer-caught-in-headlights look must have given us away,
We asked someone, “is it okay for us to be here?”
And received the reply, which changed our life, “Of course, grab a seat-- join our circle it’s open to the public,” chuckled a woman in her early 60’s with beautiful auburn hair and a warm smile.“Also young ladies, help yourself for some food in the corner.” I must have been 22, then.
On cue, we did just that-- not knowing what to expect. The instructor told us, “my name is Love and we’re going to begin our first workshop on just that, love.”
There we were. My friend Olivia and I seated in a room full of strangers -- in a circle. Sharing looks across the room, we knew that there was no backing out now.
One by one each person exchanged pleasantries-- saying their name, something about themselves, and why they joined the workshop that day.
It was there I met “Sally,” a 40-something year-old woman. Her eyes were telling of some sort of story, and I was right.
“My name is Sally. I’m Russian and I spent the last 2 years in New York City, homeless.”
“I’ve learned so much about people the past 2 years on the streets of New York. It’s really a different world, I cannot describe it.” said Sally “I’m here today to learn more about this “human” experience that we all share. We are more than just “us” there is more meaning to life than that.”
And then it got to me, I could not get past what Sally had to say. My mind was still hung up on “living in two different worlds” nothing I had to say could get past that moment. I spoke anyway.
“Hi everyone, my name is Amanda. So excited to finish college and I’m very happy to be a part of this group-- my friend is here with me too” motioning to her I continued, “Love to me is universal and it holds different meanings for many different people. I love my not-for-profit organization the way most people love their children -- be it human, dogs, cats-- children.”
When the circle was complete with its go-around introductions, Love spoke. “Okay, everyone now get up and pair off with someone next to you.”
Olivia gave me another look across the room. The “I-hope-we-won’t-regret-this-look.”I was enjoying this experience.
Love had us pair off with someone to do the following:
Speak for 1 minute straight to our partner without stopping about anything (worries, joys, relationships, etc). Our partner could not respond AT ALL (even if they were aching too). They just had to listen. And we had to take turns after our minute was over.
My partner, let’s just call him “Jim,” had piercing blue eyes and a slightly scruffy look. For my minute I felt comfortable to confide in him about conflicts I was going through as a 20-something, conflicts I only confided in with my friends. In one minute: it seemed all too natural.
I knew many things about Jim as well that day. He was going through a divorce and recently lost his job. I cared and he cared about me too-- it was normal.
The greatest lesson I learned that day: We’re all connected by common threads due to this “human” experience. Sally knew it, I was discovering it. The best thing about being human is having and sharing compassion for others.
We are in this woven fabric called, life.
Amanda A. Ebokosia is a freelance writer, speaker, and founder of The Gem Project, Inc. The Gem Project is a not-for-profit organization that assists youth in leading and benefiting from educational enrichment programs, which simultaneously hone their skills of leadership and community organizing. These programs are developed by the Gem Project. The Gem Project has been featured in: HelloGiggles, The White House Blog (Young Americans), The Star Ledger, Newark Live, Yahoo Voices, and others. You may find her on twitter: @ebokosia or her personal site, amandaebokosia.com.