Once upon a time, there was a little girl. She had a big brother who made her cry, and then made her laugh- quickly so that she wouldn't tell their mom. He taught her how to go for bike rides without waiting for parental approval, how to choose her own sense of offbeat fashion, and how to swear if the snowmobile got stuck in a drift.
He was the coolest big brother in the world. So cool that the little sister knew she would never measure up. He would always laugh at her for choosing to stay home on a Friday night, content to create collage at the dining room table instead of tearing up the town. He would always show disdain for the sister's attachment to family- her joy at loving her sisters, her desire to please their parents, her choice of youth group over bush parties and ice skating over drunk driving.
The little sister loved her brother. When he was out, she would go into his room, study his collection of bottles, his ratty old sweaters patched at the shoulder with a bit of chain, his Pink Floyd records, his rumpled bed. And when he brought girls home, the sister studied what it took to be the girlfriend of the coolest guy ever. She noted their confidence, the way they carried themselves, their unintimidated access to the big brother, and she admired them.
When the brother got bigger, he started to wear clothes that fit, and flattered. Clothes not three times removed, and never patched in ways guaranteed to embarrass our mother. His wild hair tamed, he began to thrive in university, and showed a clear sense of direction for his future. His girlfriend was beautiful, and strong. She drove a little truck, and wore a big laugh, and wasn't intimidated by the brother. They loved each other and to the amazement of all, got married in a big church with the big white gown, proper table settings, matching shoes.
The sister, not so little any more, watched it all with great admiration. This powerful woman had found the brother's heart, had softened it. She loved him into matching clothes and proper grades. Not only that, but she had married him. She was very, very cool. On weekends, she would throw house parties with rice cakes and cured meats, little pickles, olives, and glasses of wine. She would throw her head back and laugh, invite the sister for sleepovers, and "silver cloud" cocktails.
But in time, the new sister-in-law noticed the utter lack of the little sister's cool factor. All the sisters were embarrassingly uncool. They laughed too easily at simple things, talked about diets way too much, never went golfing, and never even attempted sophistication, much less accomplish it.
The little sister was sad, but not surprised. It was just a matter of time, really. The brother had always known it, and had been gracious enough to let his astounding wife learn for herself- the sister was a small time hick. She thought slowly and with great naivety, didn't throw terribly interesting parties, valued small children and animals to mind-numbing excess, and hadn't a clue what to be when she grew up. It felt sad for the sister to know that in her entire life, she would likely never be very cool, and that people would notice, and yawn, and leave the olives and cured meat for a more deserving audience.
Life sped on, and the sister found her own way. She found friends who saw the her in it all and gently encouraged that her to come out and play! Stay a while! They liked her, knew her, enjoyed the slow thinking, the eccentricities, the penchant for creating out of scraps and discards. The sister had many friends, and many people she loved and felt found by. Sometimes she looked up, did a bit of an inventory, and felt enormously happy at how life had been so kind and how friends had been such gifts.
And then something strange began to happen. As the friend circles began to expand in goodness and quantity, they began to overlap. And the sister found herself in circles of friends that were actually the incredibly cool brother's friends. She suspected it would just be a matter of time before it would crumble. The brother always knew, so the friends would soon find out for themselves. It was unnerving for the sister, who had found comfort and confidence her own way. But now her circles were intercepting his, and fate was being tempted beyond its ability to accomodate, so she did her best to batton down the hatches, shutter the house, stay in where it was warm, and not risk the mockery.
But love is gentle, and love is kind. And love keeps no record of wrongs, real or perceived.
So one day a bit of rock fell out of the fortress she had built, and a hand came through. A hand that had shared incredibly in the life of cool brother, had walked alongside him, and had loved him. A friend of a friend who knew how clever, and witty, funny and popular was this brother. A friend of a friend who also knew the strong and beautiful wife and had walked alongside her, and him.
So it was frightening to take down any bit of that protective wall, but the sister remembered that she had found her own way and that walls never did let in enough light, and that without light, fear found ways to flourish. The sister knew that she wanted to live a life that dared looked fear in the eye and that she wanted to have faith in love, and in people, in spite of potential cost. So the sister took the chance. There was still a little girl in her- one who really craved acceptance and affirmation but suspected she wasn't worth real time. But there was also this grown up in there who knew that not everyone is meant to be friends. Not everyone "gets" everyone, and that is no indication whatsoever of a person's actual value.
They've been friends for a few years now. The sister no longer sees the brother, or the beautiful wife, but she knows them in new ways. Redemptive and lovely ways with a grace that covers the sadness of that little girl. This hadn't been possible before those circles overlapped, and before courage took timid charge over fear. This became possible when goodness was called to the forefront, when honesty met with kindness and compassion, when eyes saw and ears heard and no one was there to set an unattainable standard for cool.
They share tears together, these unlikely friends. Tears are not that cool- tears don't get invited to the best dance parties with the fancy umbrella drinks. Tears mean vulnerability, and vulnerability means exposing soft underbellies (of that animal within). Tears mean its okay to not be entirely together, that you are safe and valued and heard. Tears mean that you are enough.
Love has a way of surprising. Love has a way of igniting the beautiful impossible that we get the awesome privelege of bearing witness to. Like the sighting of a fat red robin on the coldest Manitoba winter day- love has a way of gifting us with these crazy sightings of goodness that make you snap your head up and say aloud- "Did you see that?!"
Love has a way of stitching together the broken into a greater whole of many beautiful pieces. So now the big brother and the little sister share pieces of each other in those that they both love. And somehow in that patchwork, something broken has become whole again. Somehow his way, and her way, though apparently worlds apart, got found and reunited in this most unusual and miraculous gift. Of friendship.