I glanced to my left in the stop-and-go traffic. Eight men were sitting in a circle eating lunch mere feet from cars. A respite from their work widening the freeway.
Hours later I watched my two-year old niece draw dozens of “circles” of various sizes and shapes. She was satisfied with each one.
There’s something about circles.
I’ve been in countless circles over the years from my lunch group in high school circled up on the band room floor to the softball huddle in the pitcher’s circle to hand-held family prayers before holiday meals to a team-building community circle with my fourth grade students to small groups putting ourselves out there and finding gentle hearts ready to hold us.
What happens in a circle can’t happen in rows or even shoulder-to-shoulder. There’s a level of exposure—everyone can see my face, I cannot hide. And safety—we’re all in the same position.
Circles can be damaging: being the one left out or the one in the middle. I’ve stood on the outside and known the whispers were about me. And I’ve sat defenseless in the middle and known I would not leave unscathed though the wounds would be deep inside.
Circles are elemental, instinctual. So who’s in my circle? And whose circle am I in? Are they people I’m living life with face-to-face? Or are they pseudo-communities of people I think I know from the crafted selves we show online? Are they static and cliquish or dynamic and welcoming? Are they making me braver by unmasking my false fronts? Are they reflecting truth and grace? Am I?
Some days my circles feel as wobbly and undefined as a two-year old’s crayon marks; but still, they shape me.
And other days they feel as freeform and natural as construction workers on a lunch break.