His nickname is Curly. This nickname was affectionately given by a friend who says Curly looks like the “Curly” of the Three Stooges. That will give some an idea how long this friendship has lasted – over 40 years.
Curly and his friend see one another twice a year. Curly works at hotel in a large city. His friend, I’ll call him Fred, is in town for business those two times a year always staying at the same hotel. Fred and Curly catch up in conversation. The have been through their own marriages, births, all levels of sport team failure and triumphs, kids growing up, their kids marriages, and now Fred’s cancer. At the most recent visit, Curly remarked to Fred’s about his bald head. The good humored care says, “I see you.” Curly’s concern and the length of their friendship, brief and truncated as it is in a hotel lobby, connects Fred to the continuity of his life. It helps Fred see the continuity into the future now that that continuity is not assured.
Fred told me all this when I recently sat with him reflecting on his cancer treatments at his kitchen table. Fred marvels about that seeing Curly every six months reminds him of the long arc of relationships that make a difference. Fred and I wondered aloud, if this relationship means so much to you, how many other life-giving relationships has Curly planted in his 40 years at the same hotel? Surely Fred is not the only person who regularly stays and looks forward to catching up with Curly who knows him. Surely Fred is not the only person who Curly sees as a person with a life, relationships, illness, and gifts.
Curly, aware or not, more than likely has been planting mustard seeds each and every day. The chances are good that most days, there is someone who will look forward to being in his presence and being seen. Chances are Curly would not call this a ‘spiritual practice’ and yet it is. Over 40 years the mustard seed of an affectionate nickname and friendship has become a great shrub. It has put forth branches in Fred’s life and in Curly’s. It is sturdy enough for two men to share the details, emotional and personal, of their lives. This great shrub is host to the nest of friendship between Curly and Fred and how many others?
Where will you plant your mustard seed today?