I high fived a stranger this weekend-how cool is that?! In my collective experiences I don’ t recall ever having had this particular one and it influenced me more that I thought it might. This may seem like an odd thing to get excited about but it was a moment-one of those that you get caught up in-an unexpected but completely encompassing moment. The exuberant and unbridled sheer joy of corporate celebration. I wish I could say that it was something profound or spiritual (true-some would call this a spiritual thing) or world changing but it was nothing more than good old fashioned football-Michigan State vs. Notre Dame style.
I, literally, got lucky with a last minute, drop everything, ticket attached invitation to yell “Go Green…Go White” until I was hoarse opportunity I didn’t want to pass up. Thanks go to a very gracious friend (thank you C.!!) who allowed me to back out of previous plans so that I could join the rest of my family and 75,000 of my closest friends for a quintessential fall experience. The mash of bodies tailgating-suddenly and instantly friends with the people camped nearest coupled with the throngs of people moving from one direction to another that are more than willing to engage in witty repartee and good natured exhibitions of spirit makes for a fun and unique event. Not unique in and of itself-this happens every weekend at collegiate and professional sports events all over. What makes it unique is the loss of pretense-the leveling of the playing field-so to speak.
Suddenly people who would blow past you on the sidewalk on a Wednesday are sharing their grills with you. The folks that might avoid eye contact are magically engaging in face to face game time speculations and toasting a beverage (usually canned and foamy) over mutual assertions of success for the home team. People develop a certain comfort (maybe a wee bit too much-shout out to the guy next to us who didn’t mind changing in front of us) and camaraderie that evaporates with the sunrise. What is it about these kinds of events that brings out the best of human hospitality and companionship? I mean aside from certain fermented concoctions-what is it that allows us to ‘friend’ everyone around us that we would never otherwise connect with? Forget the anonymity of Facebook-give me tailgating and football styled interaction-with a little less drinking and a lot less mess-to feel connected.
Aside from a few…well, I don’t want to use the term ill-mannered-perhaps poor sports is a better way to put it–but aside from them, the majority of the 75,000 screaming fans got along, agreed to disagree and left with smiles on their faces at a game well played (can you imagine a G8 summit framed in this context-it would be awesome!) Discussions ranged from missed play opportunities to did you see that amazing play-regardless of which side played it. For the most part, it was a unilateral experience of excitement and enjoyment. Of course, it is always fun to be on the winning end of the spectrum but even at non-winning events I have experienced this same phenomenon. I will say though that yesterday was a first-I high-fived a stranger after a touchdown following a nail biter of an overtime game and it was illuminating (did I mention totally cool too!).
It was the culmination of not only one of the best games I have ever been to but the capstone on this human event. It also left me wondering why it is that we can’t enjoy this type of interaction, this sort of enthusiasm for daily life and the individuals we encounter? Why can’t we let go of conventions to get to know the people we meet everyday and invite them to break bread-or brats or burgers on an ordinary day? Why can’t we reach out a hand to share and befriend a neighbor or a stranger? What stops us-or anyone else for that matter from reaching out and sharing the human experience more willingly? Wouldn’t it be great if we could tailgate before a dentist appointment, or going to church, or political events? What about if we could just get the tailgate feeling walking down the street or going to work? My challenge for the week will be to treat the folks I encounter with the same friendliness and open-ness that I would have had I been parked or seated next to them at the game and, while I might not high five them, that I would reach out a hand to someone and just smile. I think I will loose the spirit beads though because that might be over the top…just a bit.