August is the month we get to welcome new full-time voices to the post calvin! Please welcome Kyric Koning, who is taking over Andrew Knot’s spot. Kyric graduated in 2013 with degrees in English, writing, and classical studies. He is a curious individual (with a deep fondness for the parenthetical) who haunts the Grand Rapids area and works several jobs, but considers writing his primary one. He enjoys dichotomies, pluralities, and conundrums of all sorts, playing games (all sorts), reading (all fantasy), and observing the world and (all) its inhabitants. If he’s not working or sleeping, he’s probably writing one of his many novels.
“How do you know John?” The girl walking beside me asked. This was our third time meeting, first time speaking.
“John…?” I requested.
Truth was, I knew several Johns. My best friend was a John. My dorm’s floor had seven Johns (eight if you count the honorary member of the community). It’s also a popular name in mortuaries.
The name flipped no lightswitch. She pressed on.
“You took Cooperative World Games together.”
“Oh. That John.”
She grinned. “Yeah. From what he told me about you, you must be best friends.”
I frowned. My best friend was John S–. Not John N–. “Actually I only know him from Cooperative World Games. Sorry.”
“Really?” her eyes widened. “His fiancé is one of my best friends. They told me I should date you.”
To be fair, she didn’t mention this last sentence until a few weeks later, while I was guiding her to our hotel after one of her drunken revelries as she pined over a much younger, more attractive male in our group.
Still, the revelation struck me. What kind of friend proffered a guy they met in a gym class as a potential dating subject?
John and I never spoke to each other, outside of a sporadic greeting. On what was he basing his decision? From a purely observational perspective, he could garner I was a rather lackadaisical, clumsy guy, who fell a lot, ripped his pants and was forcibly volunteered to lead an activity, lost his glasses through not-quite acrobatics, and occasionally let loose some brilliant one-liners.
Not exactly dating material. Unless you find clumsiness adorkable and are overly fond of zingers. Something else had to be at play.
But what? If I could qualify and quantify it, I’d probably be writing a book instead of a blog post. Fortunately, when we struggle to find words ourselves, we can always take another’s.
After all, if you’re going to borrow, borrow from the best.
My dad has a particularly beautiful way of describing the phenomenon. He explains it as “taking a shine” to someone. What appeals to me are the multifaceted layers obfusticated by the phrase’s duality.
To “take” a shine, there must be something already shining inside of another. Spotting that something comes first. I choose to be as unclear as “something” because “something” could be anything. “Potential” seems a bit loaded. “Possibility” provides a nice balance. But there’s something.
It could be something as ephemeral as a dream or as nebulous as a desire. It could be as reflective as a memory or as pointed as a trait. Sometimes we don’t even know how to describe what it is we’re seeing, only that we want to see more, to be bathed in its glow.
Hopefully as you read, your thoughts recall someone who has done or been this to you. The grandpa with his exciting childhood tales, walking you through his hobby. The lady from church who is always asking about the book you’re writing and wants a signed copy the moment it’s finished. The favorite teacher who smiles at all your jokes then unleashes a better one. The girl you know from a distance who names her Pokémon after Greek gods.
Each of these people carries a warmth, a beauty, a light to which we cannot help but be attracted. Phrases like “they’re good people” or “so cool” or “so precious” ring the air as we try to explain this connection. But none of them ever feel adequate because they are so much more than that.
Light, after all, functions as both a particle and a wave. A person’s complexity plumbs deeper depths. People can appreciate someone without articulating why. When they do, they “take” the shine back to the shiner.
To truly take a shine in someone, the act cannot be of our own selfish interest, but must come from a desire to invest in them, to know them, experience them. The something present in us needs others to glow. Humans cannot self-illuminate. Someone or something always shapes us.
In all the examples listed above and carried in our hearts, someone has invested in the shine they’ve seen. They, we, have seen some quality and decided that it was worthwhile and needed. Then they attempted to grow it in this world, hoping it becomes something bright enough for all to see.
Truth be told, we all need someone like this. Someone who presents availability and interest who encourages and listens. Someone who sees the best in us and is willing to critique the worst.
Difficult aptly describes this path. We are good at giving or taking, but seldom both simultaneously. It will take a lifetime of practice.
So do it. Be the light someone needs. Be aware of the beauty and potential all around. Be yourself.
Take a shine.