When I first moved to the city, after a lifetime in small towns, I was desperately lonely. Never had I lived in a place where I knew so few people. Sure, we had a few friends here, but they lived (still live) 45 minutes away. I felt isolated, alone in a city where I felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of people, and yet had so little meaningful contact with any of them. Knowing I needed something, I went searching, and after a bit of effort, I found a book club. And I loved it.
We would meet once a month at a house not far from me. From my first visit, I felt welcomed, and accepted. I was surrounded by intelligent, witty people, and each had a very unique perspective to offer. There was the Jewish couple who hosted, each quite well-versed not only in their own religion, but in several others as well. There was the skeptic, an atheist who sat in the corner, and politely and compassionately argued his reasons for disagreeing with religion in general. There was the girl who studied (and was quite good at) astrology. The disillusioned Catholic. The agnostic. And me, the relatively new Catholic.
We discussed the books, certainly - classics, every one - but inevitably, that would be left behind, in favor of new topics. Current events. Random philosophy. The merits of living in one place over another. Cats. Dogs. Gardening. Coffee. Food. More philosophy. And, invariably, religion. Given our sundry backgrounds, and the open-mindedness of the group as a whole, our religious discussions were my favorite part. I gained invaluable insights into aspects of religion that I had never considered before. Sometimes, we talked specifically about Catholicism, or Protestantism, Hinduism, Judaism, Agnosticism, Atheism. Other times, we merely discussed the need for the human soul to explore the realm of spirituality, and the interesting ways that people chose to do so. Our discussions spanned centuries, the entire extent of human existence. Or only the moment at hand.
Unfortunately, all groups have a way of dissolving sooner or later. For our book club, that time came all to soon. It fell apart because we all, each separately, managed to stretch ourselves too thin. Until one day, we found that we had lost the time to read the books. Then, we ran out of time to attend the meetings. The hosts ran out of time to host them. Before long, the book club we had all enjoyed so thoroughly was gone.
But I shall never forget. Because that group was the first place I felt I belonged in this crazy city. And for that, I am eternally grateful for those moments in time, however fleeting they may have been.