Today is the birthday of a dear friend of mine who lives back on the East Coast, which means I can’t celebrate it with him in person. My aunt, who also lives back on the East Coast, was recently diagnosed with a serious illness, and I’m not there. Another friend just moved even further away.
One of the consequences of moving around so much at various times in my life is that I’m often living far away from people I love dearly, people I would love to be able to spend more time with. Particularly at times when a family member or a friend is suffering from an illness or some other difficulty, I am saddened by the limitations on my ability to be present to them. And I also miss being there to celebrate the joys, big and little. (Phone and skype may be the next best thing to being there, but they are still not the same as being physical present.)
As I sat reflecting on that, and feeling a bit sad that I can’t take my friend out to lunch today, what came into my mind was a line from an old song from my younger days, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” In the context of the song, that line feels like an invitation to infidelity. But it also speaks a truth in this context. What I hear God saying in that line is: Love where you are, wherever that happens to be. Love here and now.
None of that diminishes the love I have for those who are not with me. That love is strong and grows and there is nothing wrong with missing and looking forward to being back with my family and friends. But it is a reminder that I can’t let my longing to be with those who are far away keep me from being present to those who are here. There will be times for me to be with those who are not with me here in more proximate ways than Skype and phone or other electronic means of communication. But while I am here, I also need to love the ones I’m with.