April 24, 2015

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Finding rapport with others opens treasures in ourselves, too

Cynthia DewesIt’s great to find another person who’s “on the same wave length” as we are, so to speak. When we establish rapport with another, we somehow feel verified and free to be ourselves. We can share opinions or intentions or whatever because we sense that the other person understands them.

Sometimes we build rapport over time. Perhaps we meet someone at work or in the neighborhood whom we like in a general way. But as time goes on, we come to feel a more intimate connection with them.

Sometimes, rapport is a sudden experience. We may meet someone at a party or a meeting whom we immediately trust. We feel we can share our thoughts with them without fear of scorn or hostility. We want to seek their company.

In spiritual matters, it’s also great to find kindred spirits, especially during Lent when our thoughts turn more frequently to God. One spiritual writer who always “speaks” to me is Father John Catoir, whose main theme is always joy. He inspires us in his columns in Catholic publications, but my favorite work of his is a little prayer book called Joyfully Living the Gospel Day by Day.

This prayer book encourages us to let go of the past, to live with joy every day in the knowledge that God constantly loves and forgives us. This does not mean we always feel happy, but rather confident that we can be hopeful no matter what.

Another spiritual writer I’ve found simpatico is Phyllis Zagano, author of Sacred Silence: Daily Meditations for Lent. Her insights in this book, while complex, really make the Lenten Gospel readings come alive. This is not pious pap; instead it’s modern analysis and advice for maneuvering the world we live in

Sometimes we find authors with whom we feel rapport, so we seek out their books and articles. Biography is my favorite thing to read, but one novelist I particularly admire is Anne Tyler. Her latest book is called A Spool of Blue Thread, about a family with aging parents and unresolved resentments.

Tyler’s gift is in understanding her characters’ deepest desires, strengths and weaknesses. She moves the plot along masterfully because these people act exactly as such persons would in real life. You feel you know them personally; in fact, you’ve met them somewhere before. And Tyler obviously knows what it is to grow old, and not want to let go of the past.

We find rapport with our close friends, including spouses and relatives. This is usually based on common values and attitudes and interests. If we make a sarcastic remark, they know we’re kidding, and if we refuse a doughnut they know we’re watching our weight and tactfully don’t insist. We laugh at the same movies, sneer at the same romance novels and admire the same heroes, like Dorothy Day or Pope Francis.

Trouble is, if we let ourselves be swayed by popular culture or false ideals of what’s important, we may sometimes miss out on rapport. We may choose what’s expedient or popular rather than what we really trust in another.

On the other hand, we may pre-judge people too quickly, missing a chance to establish the rapport we seek. We may be too hasty to find the support, or agreement or admiration we want, only to learn later that someone we’ve dismissed offhand is our twin in spirit.

We need to be truly ourselves, open to the treasures we can find in others.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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