Over at my dear Rabbit Room there is a post ending with the phrase “You have been changed. How?” that is basically an open call for people to respond to Hutchmoot 2012 weekend. As I thought about that question, I poked around in my old files and found a document of my roughly-journaled-out thoughts about Hutchmoot 2011. As I read through it I thought of things I wanted to clarify and add, and then it became what is below. There are other thoughts from HM 2012 still at work in my head and heart, but this is what bubbled to the top.
“Often at conferences I’ll hear the speakers and performers and think ‘How can I be more like them?’ but here at Hutchmoot what I realize I want afterward is to be more like me.”
That (hopefully accurately remembered) reflection from San Diego Ryan at the closing session of Hutchmoot 2012 has helped me to pin down how I think past Hutchmoots and the Rabbit Room in general have changed me. I was introduced to the Rabbit Room (thanks, LB) at a point in my life when I wasn’t finding a lot to be excited about. I felt stuck, and I think I was starting to forget the joy that comes with encountering something beautiful. Beautiful stories, words, music, food. I really believe the Rabbit Room has helped teach me how to love those things again.
However, that doesn’t mean that love is an easy thing. As one of my favorite Jason Gray songs reminds us, “fear is easy, love is hard.” After Hutchmoot 2009, SD Smith wrote a beautiful little fable that stuck in my heart. I literally carried it around in my pocket during Hutchmoots 2011 and 2012, and this line is my favorite:
“She balked, afraid of the joy that sloshed around in her like an open jug in the hands of a clumsy child. Easily lost, she was sure.”
I can’t quite say why that rings true in me. Fear and joy are so mingled in my heart sometimes, it’s hard to sort out. I am afraid that the joy will be lost, but also afraid that it will spill overboard and get all muddied and somehow end up as idolatry. My response has been to want to stamp out that fire before it gets too out of control. But, here’s the thing – I think stomping on the fire has actually burnt my poor toes, and hurt more than the tingle that comes when I let the fire burn and warm my cold hands by its light. Forgive the mixed fire-and-water metaphors here, but I’m starting to think that all that sloshing-about joy is something to relish, something to SHARE.
And that brings me back around to my point. The Rabbit Room, and Hutchmoot in particular, have helped me to realize how much I love to share stories, to share my joy in them. I’m a shy gal, so that doesn’t come naturally, but I have felt so much encouragement from this community to just say what’s on my heart. You guys listen! You listen during conversations around the table, during chats in the hallway, during nine-hour car rides. You listened during the closing Hutchmoot session two years ago, when a nervous girl stood up and told a ridiculous story about Gonzo, about how she realized she wasn’t the only blue-nosed weirdo in the universe. A year later, somebody told me that reminded them of Shakespeare, of how he took already-existing story bits and popularized them, made tiny, easily forgettable narratives part of the broader culture. He saw the good in something, shared it, and it brought people joy. A few hours later when I got over the ridiculousness of being mentioned in the same sentence as Shakespeare, I wrote that down in my journal. It’s close to the best compliment I’ve ever received, because that is exactly who I want to be and what I want to do. Slowly but surely, this shy girl is sharing things more. I started this blog a year ago (although it took another year to make the first entry). I began a master’s degree program in library and information science (really, who gets to share stories more than librarians?). I emailed my pastor and told him that we should get Stephen Trafton to bring “Encountering Philippians” to our church ASAP. I bring homemade food to potlucks. All of these are things that, without this community, would never have happened. And all are things that, I believe, are really who I am. That place and its people have made me feel more comfortable in my own blue-nosed weirdo skin, made me, as Ryan said, want to be more me. And for that, I am so, SO grateful. I have been changed.