And then there was Jake.
I was in Atlanta to spend the weekend with some of my favorite people and part of ourBedlam Magazine crew; all in one space to make memories, never again repeated. Upon arrival, he had taken Megan and I around the city, stopping for pizza at a series of long tables in the midst of an open kitchen where we laughed and told stories. Afterwards a little bistro for drinks and rich chocolate desserts that led to deep conversations about where life was finding us. The next evening had found all of us together. A concert given by Cory’s brothers and a drink or two left Jake and I arguing loudly. This happens when the two of us are in the same room. We’re similar in nature. We love hard and believe strongly and want to take care of the entire world.
That night he had given us an itinerary for the next day and it didn’t seem to fit with what I needed to accomplish in my interviews. He was trying to be hospitable and I wanted to make sure everything got done. The two did not meet in the middle. I climbed into the backseat of the car somewhere in the midst of Atlanta, slammed and locked the door behind me. He stood outside it as our friends watched in awe and probably a bit of horror. Pounding on the window he yelled, “WHY WON’T YOU JUST LET ME TAKE CARE OF YOU?” That’s a moment in time I’ll never forget. I don’t know if it taught Jake anything but it sure as hell rings like bell in my soul. Echoing out, reminding me that I have to open myself up and allow myself to be cared for, be loved if it’s ever going to happen.
And then there was Jake.
That morning as we prepared for our interview the voices of the others faded as the trim white door of the sunroom closed. There we were. Us, the sunlight and the forest behind him. And the tears. Tears kept finding their way onto our cheeks between the words. Because as Jake said himself, “I’m not a tough guy. I’m emotional. I love Taylor Swift. I’m a white girl. I guess that’s the difficult part of being in relationship with me…I’m emotional — ” I interrupted him, “You’re a white girl. You like Taylor Swift.”
“YES!” he continued, “And I feel all the feels. There are a lot of emotions. I very deeply invest in my relationships.”
The tears are flowing like Tay’s guitar is around because we have just been talking about his dream. I asked him what his big dream was and he teared up, claiming to not know and then articulated the following. “My dream is not successful if I am only sharing in the good stories with people. It’s also sharing in the difficult seasons and in the messy stories and building community around people who are hurting. The reality is with every successful story, with every successful endeavor, with every passion pursued, there are a lot of messy stories, difficult seasons, burned bridges, and broken hearts.”
“The beautiful thing about building community is that it has to be built around the good and the bad.”
“It has to be all inclusive. It is never exclusive. It’s always generous. Not just with my time, money and resources, but also with my feelings, my emotions, and my stories. Generosity is the biggest first step to community. You have to be generous with all of who you are.”
This level of vulnerability is rare and difficult to reach.
I told him that very thing, “It’s hard for people to get there. As a writer you have to get there but for a lot of people it’s hard to access that point. Being in community and being able to access that is essential. It’s what draws us into deeper relationship, with each other and God and even with ourselves. Being able to face ourselves and know ourselves.”
He agreed and that is when he says the thing which causes the tears. It is about love and vulnerability. “If you establish in vulnerability, that level of truth and honesty, love is transformational,” he told me,
“Love exchanged in vulnerability is transformational.”
“It will absolutely change your life. Whenever I’m approaching my friends and I’m being vulnerable and real with them in a way that’s loving and graceful it can transform their or my decisions.
I believe that changing the world means changing my world. Walking away from people and situations and circumstances better than when I walked into them. I want to tell the stories of the voiceless. I want to help the people who don’t have a voice figure out what their story is and say it because ultimately that’s what has happened in my life. I’ve lived a lot of stories and there have been a lot of people who have helped me own that and say it. I think I’m passionate about other people’s stories and I’m stubborn about my own. So, tell the stories of the voiceless. I don’t know what that looks like but yeah…I think that’s the starting place.”
The trees wave behind him as if in agreement with his words, “I want to really connect with people on an intimate level and help them understand their potential and their opportunity to make a difference in living their story and owning their story. I’m really passionate about conversations that help people succeed.”
“I think the first key to success at anything is owning and sharing your story.”
“I believe it starts with knowing who you are and dealing with who you are. I want to help people with that, help them use their story to connect and build community around it. I’m really passionate about building community.”
That’s Jake in six words. “I’m really passionate about building community.” He wears his heart on his sleeve. He loves so hard it’s messy. It’s working. That’s where true community is found.