Twenty years ago, I was staying with a friend in Philadelphia. I was a single Brit, working in fashion and exploring the world. One afternoon, we went for a girls’ tea at the Four Seasons with a group of her local pals. Truly delightful women, they were all wives, mothers and grandmothers.
Set up for a lovely time, I began to notice myself doing something rather odd. Whenever anyone ended a story, I hooted agreement and literally jumped on their words and pushed on with a story of my own. I was laughing too loudly, agreeing too enthusiastically, sweating profusely and smiling til my cheeks hurt. Generally I was behaving like an hyperactive toddler who needs to hug everybody.
Inside this ebullient frenetic self, the real me was thinking, “W…T…F… Josie? Why on earth are you behaving like this? Why are you being so utterly irritating? Why can’t you just shut up, calm down, and enjoy these intelligent charming women?”
We went home with me mopping sweat, slathered in silent, embarrassed reproach.
The following morning I got up early for quiet time. Getting my coffee, I said to the Lord, “Seriously, Father, I have got to understand what was going on back there! I’m just going to sit here until you help me get it.” And I sat and I waited.
Here is what the Lord said to me:
“Josie, I have made you a goose and yesterday you were among hens. There is nothing wrong with being a goose, and nothing wrong with being a hen. But they are different species. Hens are called to nest in a hen house, geese are not. I made you a goose because I need you to fly across the world. Hens can’t do that.
Here was your problem yesterday. No matter how hard you try, your gooseness will never fit easily inside a hen house. You can strain your neck in as far as you can and try to pretend that your shoulders aren’t smooshed in the doorway, you can even make similar noises and try to join in. But I made you differently, for different purposes.
In the life I call geese to, they are powerful and graceful. They soar. They fly across oceans. Waddling and honking happens when they are not in their element.
Don’t try and be who you’re not, Josie. The world needs you to be you. Love everyone. But you will find your true companions in other geese.”
Other geese. Suddenly I got it. I thought of my truest friends: all of them laugh loudly at the hilarity of life and get its seriousness; all of them are powerful and can fly; all of them are prone to waddle and honk. How I love them!
I suspect one of the deepest joys in life comes in discovering one’s true companions. Doing life together. Recognising each other’s strengths, pulling each other up. Reflecting back to each other who each one is and who they’re not.
There’s nothing wrong with being different to other people: you are neither better nor worse. It is simply that each of us – I believe – is made in a specific purposed way for a specific purposed life in specific purposed environments.
So go discover your true companions. Don’t give up until you find your tribe!
They’re out there.