I was disappointed, numb, and shaking my head this Saturday morning. I was teaming for the Tidewater Walk to Emmaus #126 Men’s Walk. We meet for Team Training every Saturday for about eight weeks in preparation for the actual walk. When I arrived, the team tables were set up in a “U” arrangement, with seats for about 25 team members. Name cards were on the tables in front of each chair. As I scanned the tables, my name card was missing. What to do?
I told the Weekend Lay Director I didn’t have a chair at the table, and he quipped back, “of course you do.” I didn’t, though, so I asked the cadre member responsible for setting up the tables where I was supposed to sit; he didn’t know and started looking through his folders for my name card. I noticed this cadre member resumed scurrying around the room, attending to other responsibilities, so I grabbed a chair out of the corner and set it near the end of one of the tables.
As I sat in a chair separate from the team at the tables, I wondered if the cadre would resolve this. Since I was close to the end of one of the tables in the “U” configuration, I wondered if the Spiritual Director sitting in the last chair at the end of the table would offer me a corner, but that didn’t happen either. As the training started, I realized I had placed my chair in front of a musician’s microphone, so I moved my chair back a few feet out of the way. Now I was sitting alone, in the corner of the room, with every team member seated at the tables except me.
One of the tenets of Emmaus is that nothing starts until the team is together. This tenet usually applies to everyone in the room, but in this case, given the circumstances, I would suggest everyone seated at the common table would equate “together.” I was surprised we started the training with one team member sitting in a corner away from the rest of the team. But there we were.
My solo seat was just behind the four spiritual directors; none made overtures to make room at the table for me. Two-thirds of the team could see me in the corner, and many made eye contact, but none offered to make room for me at the table. Men I had teamed with many times before and that I considered brothers did nothing.
During the first speaker, a cadre member brought my name card, handed it to me, and left me wondering exactly where I should put it. I had no table, just my chair, and the floor. Near the end of the first speaker, the cadre member returned and suggested I sit on one of the cadre’s chairs that was sitting with the musicians. At that point, it would have been awkward to move while the speaker was talking, and a break in protocol.
The first speaker was the community lay director, and as he spoke on the importance of building a cohesive team during the training process, I no longer felt part of the team. Sitting alone, separate from the entire team at the tables, did not lend itself to cohesiveness. At the first break, a member of the cadre offered up his chair to me. I had spent much of the time during the first speaker talking to God. What was happening, and what should I do? If you’re thinking this sounds a bit petty, maybe, I’ll concede that if it helps anyone. I was reminded of being a child while picking sides to play kickball and being the last to be picked, yet left on the bench and not picked at all.
After praying, I was led to leave at the break and head home. I no longer felt part of this team and questioned if teaming up with these folks was the right thing to do. Later that day, the Weekend Lay Director called me at home. He didn’t remember me telling him I had no seat at the table and asked if I said anything to the cadre member responsible for the table arrangement, and I had. He wondered if a cadre member offered me his chair at the break, and he had. He then stated that he assumed I wanted to sit in the corner alone. I was left wondering how anyone sitting at the table couldn’t have noticed that there were no empty seats, no room for any more seats, and my name card wasn’t on the table.
Assuming everyone on the team thought I wanted to sit in a corner alone, I have to wonder why none of the cadre and my brothers and sisters wouldn’t have approached me to see what was happening. Did I need to speak with a spiritual director? Was I O.K.? This assumed scenario reminded me of Matthew 18 and Luke 15, the parable of the 99. None of the strong Christian men and women in that room left the other 25 team members at the table to find the one lost team member in the corner.
Frankly, I was stunned that the four spiritual directors I was sitting behind said not one word to me. I was likewise dismayed that none of the teamers at the table offered to make room for me or to ask if I was O.K. Maybe I had unrealistic expectations; it wouldn’t be the first time. But I can say without hesitation that if I had been seated at the table and another one of the team members was sitting alone in a corner, I would have insisted we resolve that before starting the training. That might be me, alone again, in my thoughts and expectations.
I have been led to step away from teaming on 126; it doesn’t feel comfortable anymore. I pray no team training in the future starts with a team member absent from the table and alone in the corner of the room. Lastly, Holy Communion is part of every team training and always begins with “this table is open to all.” I’ll end this right here…
May the Peace of Jesus Christ be with you all.