A little over a month ago, I was sitting in a diner, eating some breakfast, and a few older ladies sat down in the table behind me. I was thinking about other things, but for some reason, their voices drifted into my mind, and I listened to what they were saying. They were thanking god for the friendship that they shared.

That’s fine for them, but it doesn’t make much sense for me. I can’t pray.  I have friends that I really appeciate though, and so I started wondering, ‘who would I thank?’ The answer came pretty quickly: each other. It’s pretty obvious, so this little journey lasted just a few moments, but it reminded me of this excellent “secular sermon” that really moved me:

I’m not ready to talk about everything that’s happened in the last month and a half, but relationships have been so important. My father had a massive heart attack and pulmonary hemorrhage. He was in the ICU for 12 days. During that time, I experienced the incredible power of relationships. My parents, my sisters, my family, my friends, and even people who I didn’t know that well were all there, supporting, helping, and showing love.

I’ve been struggling to put into words exactly what that means.  I’ve been staring at this screen for days now, trying to find the words that will describe what all this support and love means, and failing.  But then I realized what the problem was.  I was trying to put all of this in some larger context, and I don’t think that actually exists.  Relationships aren’t there in some larger narrative.  A relationship is between two people, and that’s where it’s power resides.  Two lives sharing, building, exploring the world together, a synergy that states emphatically: you are not alone.

My dad is recovering well.  Now that the crisis has passed, I find myself appreciating my relationships more than over.  I find myself saying thank-you a lot.  I write many letters, I have hugged more people in the last month than I have in the previous years.  Most importantly, I’m reminded to show love and understanding to everyone.  Empathy is a skill that takes practice, but that practice is so rewarding.  In the end it comes down to a simple fact: together we are better.