There’s something extraordinary about the authenticity of a face-to-face conversation, sitting across a coffee table from someone, letting them peek into the corners of your heart and mind.
Unity begins to grow while sitting with others cross-legged on the kitchen floor, eating finger-food you prepared together and wiping the grease on your pants; African voices chanting in the background while dreams and hopes are spoken into existence.
There’s something intimate about gathering with friends under a starry sky with everyone huddling for warmth around a roaring fire. Fleece blankets wrapped tightly around shoulders, marshmallows toasting over glowing embers. Stories being swapped in the flickering light are the most memorable.
These moments remind us that relationships take work and effort and love. Real-deal friendships are not the result of likes and shares. Relationships are the result of time invested.
To sit with someone over tea is to say, I see you.
You are worth my time.
You are worth my investment.
Tell me your story and where you want to go.
Face-to-face conversations remind us that we are not just pictures and profiles on a screen, but actual living, breathing, feeling beings. With hearts that beat and minds that wander and mouths that sometimes say the wrong thing.
Looking into the eyes of another person, hearing them speak about the hard and the good in their lives — it peels off some of the self-centred layers we become easily lost under. At its most authentic and genuine, it untangles us from the constricting string of perfection. It allows us to embrace the tough, the chaotic, and the surprising parts of life together. It reminds us that we are all small chapters in a Greater Story—chapters that intertwine with those that came before and those that will come after.
There is a Zulu greeting, Sawubona.
To say Sawubona is to say, I see you. I acknowledge your presence and all that you are. It’s an invitation to be a part of each other’s lives, each other’s stories, if only for a moment in time.
An invitation — I love that.
In college an influential woman in my life took the time to sit with me, listening and encouraging, correcting and laughing. She has spent countless hours of her life investing in me — moments she will never be able to live again, but I know if I were to ask her if it was worth it she would say, yes.
Our one-on-one moments have looked like cups of hot tea, grinning and talking excitedly about life-adventures. Some moments involved dead squirrels or 20-hour road trips, while others mourned lost relationships with bonfires and lighter fluid. LOTS of lighter fluid.
Those times have been full of surrender, lying on our backs in front of the cross, gripping the other’s hand and praying with hopeful and heavy hearts.
But an incredible thing happens when someone really sees you — when someone invests in you.
It makes you want to do the same for someone else.
It makes you pack up a box of Raisin Bran and some milk to share with a friend. You don’t mind staying up past your ever-earlier bedtime if it means reminding someone of their value and worth in this Greater Story. Suddenly, skipping lunch to talk about that mission trip, that relationship, that land beyond these borders … is much more filling than the tuna sandwich you planned on eating alone.
When we spend the irreplaceable moments of our lives on another person, we’re saying, Sawubona. We’re saying, I see you. I invite you to become a part of my story, and I would like to be a part of yours.
Someone taught me the importance of Sawubona without even realizing it.
And now I want to live it out with others.