Special RAGBRAI Edition: Sunday Roast (A Conversation Between Friends)

NOTE: Occasionally, I’ve invited guests to blog on Jenion. The feature has typically been posted on Sunday and in addition to my Thursday post. This week, however, I am riding my bicycle across the state of Iowa. Today’s guest kindly volunteered to cover the weekly post so I wouldn’t stress about it while on the ride!

Today’s Guest Blogger: Mike Beck

I can’t believe I actually said it out loud.

Last Thursday evening: “Are you going to blog while riding RAGBRAI?” I asked Jenifer.  “I don’t know.” She replied with some hesitation.  “Maybe I’ll guest blog this week!”  (This is where I should have bit my tongue. Hard.)  Her reply? “OKAY!”

 I’m Mike.  I’ve been mentioned occasionally in Jenion, so the name may seem familiar.  Actually, I’ve been mentioned more frequently than what may be obvious, but often, it is in single statements with no names; lines repeated from past conversations where only I know that she remembered something we shared.  You see, Jenifer and I share a lot.  When we’re together, we gab.  And when we’re apart, we text and email each other frequently.  We cover any array of topics.  Nothing is off limits.  We speak ironically.  We delve into deep discussions.  We often laugh with abandon. We’re close friends. 

 I met Jenifer in the fall of 1979.  I was a sophomore at Loras College, Jenifer a freshman at Clarke College, both in Dubuque, Iowa.  A mutual friend brought Jenifer along to a gathering at the Loras Christian Center, a place where many of us found the foundation of our faith, the freedom of our young adulthood, and the bonds of what would become life-long friendships.  Oh, and folk music!  Lots of singing and guitar playing took place there.  (We were so cool!) 

I have learned so many lessons from the people who used to hang out at LCC.  But the most important lesson, and one I’ve tried to carry with me throughout my entire life, is that friends are precious, deserve to be cherished, nurtured, and celebrated.  I have been blessed with many wonderful people in my life just because we took the time to get to know each other a little bit, and decided the investment was worth it.  My relationship with Jenifer is clearly one I intend to hold onto as long as she’ll put up with me.  (I’m not too worried since she recently relocated to my city of Minneapolis and lives in an apartment in my building!)

And ever since she landed on Franklin Avenue, we’ve spent a considerable amount of time together, grocery shopping, bike riding, and hanging out with my visiting family.  It just seems natural that we knock on each other’s door as we pass in the hall and check in, coordinate trips to Kowalski’s or Target, and plan our new favorite thing: night bike rides around the city’s amazing bike trails!

Then she left to ride in RAGBRAI, a week-long bike ride across Iowa.  I texted her the first day she was gone: “I’m bored.”

 And that is where the blessings of having friends kicked in.  The boredom lasted about five minutes.  My friend JC was laying sod in his yard Saturday morning and I offered to help.  Just as we got the last of the grass installed in the back yard, I had to take off.  I was meeting FA for lunch downtown and needed a shower.  As our sunny summer rooftop lunch ended, my youngest son texted and wanted to have dinner together.  JW texted in the middle of my pulled pork sliders to see if I had dinner plans.  Yes, but we were going to head back downtown for the Aquatennial fireworks.  Please join us!  (Which he did.)  In between, EP called and wanted to go for a bike ride.  Not tonight, but how about tomorrow?  On Sunday, SB joined us and we rode the entire chain of lakes.

Monday evening, I had a relaxing time with three other friends catching up over a glass of wine on a backyard patio.  Tuesday night, I made it to Moto-I for a roof top happy hour with a large group of other friends.

So, even though I knew I was going to miss having Jenifer around for a whole week, I was also reminded of how important it is to have close friends, people I care about deeply, who remind me what a privilege it is to be part of their lives.  A text from Jenifer put it in perfect context: “When you start really living your life, people want to be part of it!”

So, as I hijack Jenion for this week only, I would humbly propose that we repent our anemic understanding of love, and actually get out and do something, anything, with our friends, not because we need them in our lives, but because we want to be part of theirs. And frankly, it’s simply how we have been called to live.