That was my experience with Chirlee House. A 1953 graduate of Highline High School who still meets monthly with many of her classmates; while now the gathering is down to five as friends are passing away, the commitment to relationship has not waned. A proverb says the most important letter in the word f-r-i-e-n-d is the letter “i,” and that letter stands for “initiate.” It’s clear that Chirlee has” figured out friendship”; she is constantly reaching out to others. In a world of “entitlement,” I have yet to meet someone more “other-centered” and generous with their time and interest.
We live in a world of transitory relationships. Broken families and societal mobility have made long-term, lifetime companions a rare experience for most. So what is the wisdom from someone with proven mastery, demonstrated by 70+ year friendships?
“Celebrate each other and the good things in life.”
“Recognize that life would be harder without each other. So build friendships in which you can share everything: the good, bad, joyous, sad, mistakes, successes … and carry one another’s burdens.”
“Be disciplined in a rhythmic schedule of being together (such as monthly lunches with her Highline High friends).”
In our conversation, she communicated one relational truth after another:
“We are losing the art of conversation to screens. Social media is mostly about ‘me,’ but relationships are about ‘others.’ Combined with a loss of moral teachers and models, growing up without a moral compass, it is hard to be young today.”
“Relationships cannot be sustained without thankfulness. We have lost the art of thankfulness. No more do folks write thank you notes, not even for presents; fewer times do we hear or say ‘thank you!’ “
“Gratefulness is an art. So is joy. Both require intentionality.”
This other-centered generosity is learned at home. Chirlee made sure her kids understood they were part of a family and, therefore, they served one another. For Chirlee, a few elements were bedrock:
- Regular chores
- Affirming hard work
- Complementing a job well done
- Demonstrating character as parents and affirming it in their kids
- Consistent standards that do not waver, children need to know where they stand; inconsistency confuses them
- A stable home and marriage are vital!
Chirlee loves meeting new folks. Working with her son Danny at the Tin Room has given her the perfect opportunity to show her appreciation and interest in people. It has also given her a place to build great camaraderie.
In her free time, Chirlee loves to read biographies. She reads about inspiring lives: Abigail Adams, Ben Franklin, Winston Churchill, etc. She loves the stories of men and women from the World War I and II era. “They were men and women of courage,” she reflects.
I was honored to listen to this wise woman. I hope that Burien, as the Gem of the Sound, will choose to adopt an increased positive attitude of the “other-centered generosity” that is in Chirlee House. Not only would we be a better place to live, but I suspect, as individuals, we would all benefit by adopting her 1953-graduate, delightful mindset full of the joy, energy, and adventuresome spirit she had 70 years ago.
Also, did I mention she is truly lovely? Well, she is!