There is a meeting room in the church that I attend once a week. The rest of the week this room is known as The Library. On Thursday evenings it is the room that is occupied by THE TABLE and those who circle around it.
I have been a part of that circle since 1976, nearly half a life time ago. Around THE TABLE the Thursday night occupants have shared laughter, tears and applause. We have hugged and congratulated each other, we have loved and spoken in rare occasions of anger, apologized, shared and carried on.
Last night I arrived to discover that our room had been flooded by the most recent August monsoon downpour. The room was emptied, a note on the door directing us to another room on higher ground.
It was not the same. I have adjusted to moves to and from other rooms before. Not a problem. But tonight was different. We weren’t gathered around THE TABLE. We weren’t looking at each other’s faces. There was no smiling, joking or hugging. We seated ourselves and stared at the back of the heads of those in front of us. It reminded me of the time at a retreat years before when the guidance councilor had asked our group – it was about the size of this one – to circle the room, turn to our left and place our hands on the shoulders of the person before us.
We were then instructed to start a massage and to give a great neck and shoulder rub to the person in front of us. I was giving such a wonderful rub up to that moment when we were ordered to stop that I hadn’t even noticed the one that I had gotten, although I was curiously aware that I was now missing what must have been a great experience.
Next we were to repeat the task but this time to focus on the tactile gift that we were receiving from the person behind us. Suddenly, I noticed with gratitude the rub down my neck and shoulders were getting. The blissful experience lasted at least three seconds, only to disappear completely a few seconds later. (Think about it.)
Last night, like that circular pat down of decades before, we were missing the usual excitement as we sat and critiqued each other’s haircuts and frayed collars. Eventually we focused on the chairperson at the front of the room, and then to our speaker of the evening.
When we broke into discussion groups I left and went back to visit THE TABLE. It had been in several different rooms over the years and was actually two tables as those of us with over twenty years experience knew. This amazing bit of 19th century woodworking was scratched and marred by life itself. I know nearly every scratch and have stories to tell about many of them. When I reached the drying room I looked at THE TABL. I was not looking at a 72″ X 72″ table; it was now divided into two and piled with chairs and boxes of books and as I stood there before it I began to remember…………
So many stories. So many births and deaths and memories of great courage and fears overcome by Love and Good Will………..So why would my first memory be of gastric distress? Perhaps because I had to leave the room tonight as I had on another Thursday evening so many years ago.
I was trapped in this small crowded room. iIhad to pass gas. At that time twenty years ago the two tables were placed end to end in a different room. When the speaker finished, rather than break into groups, we just started going around THE TABLE, taking turns discussing the evening’s topic. I had eaten home cooked pinto bean tostadas an hour before the meeting and I was very gassy. I quietly rose from THE TABLE and walked out the door and down the hall into the kitchen. My ability to fart on command was totally under control. Grateful that no one would be able to hear me I celebrated my good fortune by allowing the pressure to build and with careful timing, filled the room with the sound of five beautifully tuned, mega-farts. As the final toot emerged from my bowels, in walked my buddy Al. “Quack, quack” said Al. “Quack, quack ” said I. (That is how Al and I always greeted each other back then.) Al leaned to the left, raised his right knee practically to his chin and let ’er rip. Dismayed by this sudden display of competitive spirit but not to be easily outdone , I did what I could to discourage this would-be champion of gustatory gassiness and with a roar of disgust filled the air with pinto-rial fumes and stood back to witness Al’s response.
I don’t know who won the contest that night but I remember thinking that if our friends hadn’t heard the bark of a dozen farts they most certainly heard our shrieks of childish macho laughter.
We returned to the room of THE TABLE and bowed to the huge round of applause.