Got Circle? Sometimes you NEED to go where everybody knows your name

If you grew up watching Cheers like I did, the theme song has been stuck in your head for the last 35 years or so.  “Making your way in the world today takes every-thing you’ve got…” For any who can’t sing it completely word for word, it is embedded in the body of this post, go ahead and have a look or a listen.  It took me awhile to learn that that song is not about a bar, it is about circles.  “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name..and they’re always glad you came….  You want to go where people know, people are all the same, you want to go where every-bod-y knows your nameeee.”

What if that want, was really more of a need?  What if we don’t just want to be with people who are just as messed up as we are, but we really need to be with people, just like we need the very air that we breathe? 

I grew up watching these dysfunctional people on TV fail to perfect the art of being human as individuals, while somehow showing us, week after week, how it could look to perfect it, together, as a group?  Sure some of them looked like they had it all together, but it took an entire decade’s long spin-off series for us to learn that Frazier, the well dressed, affluent psychiatrist with the beautiful wife, forever spouting self-help advice, was probably more messed up than the lot of them! The key word there was together, they were messed up, but they were in it together and they loved each other despite their failings.

The small group they formed is similar to other small groups of friends and family found in every aspect of life : school, work, in their case a neighborhood (bar,) church and even online.  This is what they mean in the “church world” when they say things like “circles are better than rows.” Rows are what you might find anywhere where you are participating in the same thing, like watching a movie, but your not truly interacting with each other.  Rows are an incredible thing as well and they are way better than the alternative of being alone.  Rows provide us with a shared experience and a chance to hear, experience or absorb the same information, whether that be attending a concert, sitting in a bar (or airport) people watching, or going to a church service.  I am a bit biased, and I will tell you some church services can be truly transformative and transcendent experiences, but some of you would probably argue that Walmart people watching could be as well! I’ll just go on record as saying, I’ve done both and they are not nearly the same, especially when you experience that same worship time in rows with the people you spend time in circles with.

In our work lives, we find ourselves in rows or their equivalent, every time we attend a speech by some leader, or training session, either in person or online.  We get informed, if we aren’t tuned out or multi-tasking, and if we are very lucky, occasionally, we will be inspired.  However, we all know the real learning occurs when we get out of the meeting and we are processing what we just heard with our closest co-workers.  That is when the magic happens and you can check what you heard with another person.  They may have heard some things you missed, they may see things slightly differently or you could get a whole lot of validation from the fact that you processed it exactly the same way.  Nevertheless, the information is not the really important thing going on there, it is the bond, it is the circle.  The more you get together and talk about shared experiences, the closer you become, the more you share and the stronger circle you create.  So much so that when someone hurts, we hurt, when someone leaves, we are sad.  When you leave, you are a bit lost and a bit fearful you won’t find the same circle again.  When people in your work circle have a life event you all celebrate together.  You look forward to those times.  They make the work you do, and the time you spend at work, more meaningful. This is the power of the circle at work.

In our lives at home, we find ourselves in a similar place.  When we sit on the couch and watch a TV show or movie together, we are in rows.  When we sit at the dinner table and talk about the show, or the days events or who is driving us crazy at work, we are in a circle.  If you reflect back on experiences you have had in circles at home vs row experiences, which ones give you the fondest memories? When a close friend of ours experiences a loss, we don’t just go sit in the funeral parlor and listen to the service together, hopefully, we are there before and after the funeral with food, shared memories and lots of hugs and prayers. That is a circle. When our friend’s kid is lost or their spouse has let them down, we circle around them to support them.

Out in the community, we can join a food drive at work and bring our cans in or we can sign up and go volunteer and, without ever talking to anyone, filling a truck with water, pet food or diapers.  That is a cool thing to do! When we participate like this, we are still sharing that “row experience” to some extent and it is good to be sure.  It is definitely much better than sitting at your desk or on your couch and wishing you could help.  However, it does not compare to knowing the names of the people you are serving food to or serving with the people you know well from work, school or church.  It can’t hold a candle to getting a text in the middle of the week from a three-time cancer survivor living on government aid, sending you a prayer and asking if YOU are doing ok.  Sorry, there is no comparison to the circle vs the row there folks!

Lastly, if you are someone who goes to a church, either joyously or reluctantly (as I once did), than you have to at least sense there is a marked difference in worshiping together in rows vs. spending time in someone’s living room or in a coffee shop sharing what is going on in your or their life.  If you don’t understand that there is a difference between showing up on a Sunday and listening to, at least in my case, a world-class sermon and worship experience, and seeing someone, you made the effort to get close to, change -their – life, you are simply missing out on something that will bring you an indescribable joy.

Please don’t misunderstand me, you need not be a Jesus follower to experience circles, although I would highly recommend you try it on for size. Circles are simply everywhere for the making and joining.  The key to the circle is getting at least two people to take action to form a bond.  That can easily start with you taking one small step or making one small gesture to connect with someone.  With time and attention a bond or two or ten will be formed. It is through those bonds that we better understand that none of us is perfect.  In a circle, you get a chance to see that our “troubles are all the same.” In a circle, you get a chance to see that we were created to be Better Together and to live that way.  The alternative is to languish on your own or halfway there, in a row, with no one ever enthusiastically shouting “Norm!” as you walk in the door of their life.  I want that for you, and whether you are a believer or not, that is OK, I believe that God wants that for all of us.

source: https://www.lyricsondemand.com/tvthemes/cheerslyrics.html

  Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.

Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.

You wanna go where people know,
people are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows
your name.

You wanna go where people know,
people are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows
your name.

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