Gratefulness: Beth Katz & Lonnie Michael

Throughout the month of November, I want to take time to share about people or things I am grateful for over the past year. Previous entries: Jeremy Bouman, Public Libraries, Fuel Saver, Eric Carpenter, WellCare/Medicaid, That One Jimmy’s Egg Meal.

On this date two years ago, Beth Katz, Lonnie Michael, and I got together at Caffeine Dreams. Our conversations were usually a mix of thoughtful, challenging, story telling, current events, and fun. This day, a few days after Donald Trump was elected President, the conversation was going to be different. It was going to be loaded.

I did not vote for Donald Trump. I did not think Trump would get elected until it actually happened. The signs were there, but it was hard for me to make the leap. For me, meeting with Beth and Lonnie was the first chance to process with someone what had just happened and not worry about the repercussions of what I might say. One church leader questioning why I would tweet publicly about not justifying/excusing Trump’s sinful behavior as it related to the Access Hollywood tape. Another church leader wondering if I was “switching sides” because I was advocating for a biblical principle that was a policy more aligned with Democrats than Republicans. Another church leader who encouraged me to see the partisan documentary film 2016: Obama’s America that the Associated Press described as “almost entirely subjective and a logical stretch at best”. This doesn’t even address the different staff and individuals who believed Obama was a “secret Muslim”, prayed for his presidency to end, or participated in Facebook groups that advocated for his impeachment when he was only the President-elect.

When Beth, Lonnie, and I convened at Caffeine Dreams, it was as friends doubling as a support group. Us sharing our hopes and fears of what it said about our nation and neighbors right now, from a variety of perspectives (Beth is Jewish, Lonnie is African American), and what it might mean for the future of us as individuals, communities, minorities, the nation, and our world. It was an emotional couple of hours as we talked.

We came out of that time committed to our communities, to our neighbors, and to fighting the good fight. We also came out of that time even more committed to one another.

Since that Friday morning, we’ve met every so often to check in with each other. Sometimes we discuss good news. A job development. A move to a new part of town. The next chapter in one’s life. More often than not, we were discussing current events: Charlottesville, #MeToo, race relations, poverty, anti-semitism, Omaha, inequality, religion, history, education, and more. It is rare to find thoughtful people you can talk to about such topics, and know whatever you say will not be weaponized against you.

I lucked into this triad. I don’t know how many times I’m sitting there listening to Beth or Lonnie and think, “Class is in session for me.” I love it.

Our “group sessions” strengthened the bonds of friendship between us. There were always going to be current events to talk through, but each other’s lives? That became even more pertinent. Especially when it became clear one of us was moving on for awhile.

One consistent topic our triad has discussed these pats two years has been Beth’s desire to pursue the PhD program in Politics and International Relations at the University of Edinburgh (Scotland). Beth wants to be part of the solution within our communities that are hurt by many of the issues we often discussed.

For nearly two years we talked about the possibilities of Beth going to Scotland. We became invested into our friend’s dream. When setbacks would arise, and it seemed Scotland would not be possible, Lonnie and I were there to listen and encourage. We believed in her. We were there for Beth, and why wouldn’t we be? Beth had been there for us during our difficult moments the past two years. Listening to us. Encouraging us. Loving us. Believing in us.

When two years of effort came through, and it all came together for Beth (and her family) to move to Scotland so she could be in the PhD program, it was a joyful moment for us. Of course, this also meant our friendships, our triad, would be changing.

The last time the three of us were together, I was sad. I was trying hard to mask it, not to reveal what I was thinking and feeling. Beth was going to Scotland! Lonnie had just moved into a new place in the Blackstone District, we were at his place, and his work was going well. It was awesome! And me? I did not want to be the downer at a time of celebration. I kept thinking of The Fellowship of the Ring and how the fellowship broke at the end of the film. My hope became The Return of the King where the fellowship comes back together…and evil is defeated! (I listened to “In Dreams” a lot that day.)

To keep the Lord of the Rings references going, Beth, Lonnie, and I are now in the The Two Towers phase of our lives. We each have our own journey to take. We will have stories to tell each other when we get through these chapters and our triad fellowship reunites.

The past two years Beth and Lonnie have been dear friends. They’ve been there for me when I resigned my job a year ago. They’ve been there for me when I’ve expressed doubts about the path I’m on and my future. They’ve remained committed to me, just like they said they would two years ago when we finished our session at Caffeine Dreams.

I am grateful for Beth and Lonnie.

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Recharging with my crew.

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