One evening, I approached the cafeteria in the large co-op where I live, and my heart sank. Beef stroganoff… and mushrooms… with spinach. Trifecta: my three least-favorite foods. As I considered whether to have a PBJ or dry cereal for dinner, someone came up behind me and exclaimed “Oooh my favorite! Yummy!”
I am sure it is true that every meal on the menu is someone’s favorite, and someone else’s least favorite. Indeed, when the meal includes Brussels sprouts, I get very excited, while many around me slink empty away. Perhaps we should eliminate from the menu every dish which is anyone’s least favorite? If we did that, we would end up with a menu to which every member of the community was ambivalent, or even indifferent. No more wrinkled noses or gag reflexes… but no more joy, either. Wow, what if someone hates ice cream? Unthinkable? I don’t know; I find it hard to understand others’ revulsion toward Brussels sprouts, as I know many mushroom lovers find inconceivable my deep loathing for all things fungus. My, what a bland menu indeed.
What if we took the same approach to the membership of our community? (Or you to yours, whatever “community” is for you.) I have my least favorites, for sure. Maybe there have even been a few over the years who consistently elicited a gag response. Should we ditch everybody who is somebody’s least favorite? We would wind up with a community of persons completely indifferent to each other. I am fairly certain that would mean no community at all. But why should I concern myself? I wouldn’t be around! Nope! There’s no way I would make the cut. I am sure I am someone’e least favorite. I am sure I have wrinkled more than one nose. Even as the Mushroom Gravy Over Rice has survived many attempts at menu reform, so folks like me get to stay and participate in the painful, life-affirming act of building community. Recognizing that I am probably someone’s least favorite clearly informs my attitude to those I find my least favorite: I try to imbue my relationships with the patience, grace, kindness and respect which I desire others to extend toward me.