Years ago I got the great honor of bringing two friends home to a Tri Cities Thanksgiving from Berea. When we were leaving the giant meal my Bristol friends had spread out at Roseland's table, Mike turned to me and he made a comment about how "these are remarkable, successful, good people I'd like to know but they do not see you." I did not take in his remark, but benchmarked it in my mind for much later.

For much of my life, I have lived in the shadows of big trees and for much of the time, I actually did not see myself because of the rest of the forest. A sort of big fish in a small pond feel was elicited by Mike's comment, but my Roseland friends were not small sorts. What is it to grow up the least important or thought of person in a cluster of high achieving, winners? Well, I can say it's strange, but I never really thought about it that way. I just never did.

It is true though, I am peerless, in my family friend group. And they do not see me. It is ice worth thinking about as it swallows down. I guess it is why I always was a pretty friendly child and young adult. I made efforts to reach out. And I finally did, for a brief time of college, exist in a new forest where I was a little more of a stand out tree. Of course part of that is I have overcome through challenges different than most of the others at Berea. In fact, being disabled for mental illness was a new one for Health Services, when I was there, according to one staff person.

This sounds mopey. It is a reflection of events, but very recently, I drove to the grocery store. I saw someone pushing a cart who just had a cool look to him. As I found my way to park, all the people I encountered fit that description. Everyone was groovy and had a story worth listening to and really learning from. Everyone in the lot impressed me. But I don't always approach average strangers as if their book is as great as mine. I am not conceited at all, but there is a feeling of separateness in existence. People are just busy. We spend a lot of time watching TV or working our asses off or packing school lunches, but it is not in community that we generally dwell. Here on this street, I feel I have community because we all know one another, to a point. But connection and having time to actively care about the other trees is a big deal.

There is this thing I know that I always have known, that has not been really apparent through all this writing, and it is nobody is better than anyone else. So all of this talk of trees being taller is just entirely socially constructed. That nobody is better than anyone else is one of my most deeply held beliefs. But when you talk to people it hardly ever is said or suggested. Instead from the first minute, the parties involved locate the "top dog" or "dawg" and proceed. We have to look at all the grocery shoppers with eyes of equality, yes. And when we talk to them and about others, we have to be equals because we are all equals in the Light of Truth.