If there is one character, apart from Linus, that I can strongly empathize with, it is Charles Schultz’s “Charlie Brown”. Looking at my profile on Facebook- that great arbitor of human relationships, I see that I have sent out 20 hearts, and received one. I am reminded of so many childhood Valentine’s days past, where time was given in class in which to distribute Valentines to one’s school chums. There was always the counting of cards..the thrill of receiving even one little note….and then the pain of realizing that my miserable, thin little pile was all too often dwarfed by the stacks of those considered to be the darlings of the elementary social circle. I so wanted to have friends, to be included, to be loved, and to belong. I didn’t feel that at home, and so I searched with missionary zeal for acceptance within the wider world of school yard pirhuanas. I became an incurable people pleaser, afraid of being honest for fear of rejection. It was OK for others to criticize and put me down- I was used to that. But to offer constructive criticism to another was much too risky…I dared not kindle the wrath of those whose behavior I detested, or whose approval I sought so desperately. I see now how shallow such an existance was. I have always been a loner since childhood. I wonder now if it is because deep down inside, I realize that I will never measure up, so I have stopped even wanting to try. I seek refuge in the pages of a book, in the friendships of Harry Potter and his friends, secretly wondering if there will ever be a Hermione Granger, a Ron Weasley, a Neville Longbottom, and a Hagrid-like guardian for me. I echo the words of Harry when he says that it is “too painful to care, because the ones that you care for all get taken away”. I know what it feels like to have longtime friends drop me like a load of bricks, all because I have awoken to the depth of my personal convictions about God and about life. I know what it is like to have people shrug their shoulders in the face of my pain, and walk away, leaving me to bleed like a mortally wounded animal. And I keep getting up again, hoping that one day, I will find, as Anne Shirley so poignantly alludes to ” a kindred spirit”. Not to say that I don’t have the most wonderful husband in the world…I would not want to appear ungrateful. And yet, even he is often preoccupied with so many things. Unable to connect for his own reasons. And out of love, I free him to be who he is and not what I want him to be. I do have friends that flit into and out of my life- friends that I long to build more than just a superficial relationship with. Friends that always seem to be a heartbeat from reach. Have I not tried enough? Surely there is something more that I could be doing, more ways that I could be serving those around me. That old, primal yearning to belong, to be loved- how I wish I could shake it at times and be free. But I am inexricably bound up in this web of interactions, this – at times – facade of social respectability, longing so much to stratch below the polite and pious layers that keep me distanced and reminded once again that I am ‘other’, and not ‘we’.