March 11, 2020
Admittedly, I can be an airplane snob. Content to be left alone the message I often convey is one of aloofness to those who might so much as have the audacity to sit next to me and engage in conversation. Instead, nose buried in and vision focused on the latest read I exist in obliviousness.
A few months back, mechanical disruption shifted the departure time of my flight back several hours. Most connections were either lost or compromised and passenger aggravation ensued. Repairs made we finally took off.
My eyes drifted to the literature of the woman sitting next to me and as the plane taxied we engaged in a few moments of small talk. I learned that she was an educator, wife, mother of four, grandmother of several more, and a graduate of Brigham Young University. Her name was Sally. For whatever reason our discussion moved towards the randomness of encounters and I mentioned the book, “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” by Mitch Albom, a novel based on the premise that everything happens for a reason and there are no random events in life. Even the little things we do can affect other people’s lives and experiences dramatically. The human spirit knows, deep down, that all lives intersect.
Sally shared the story of her family. Her parents were the sons and daughters of missionaries living in Hawaii. Her parents were very close as child playmates. Her mother’s family was eventually reassigned to the Philippines while her father and his family remained behind in Oahu. The year was 1941.
Many of us familiar with history know what occurred on December 7 and the US declaration of war on Japan. A less common tale revolves around the fate of American citizens serving in territories taken over by the Japanese, one being the Philippines. For many of these people, more than three years were spent in internment, conditions made difficult through severe food rations and torturous labor.
Sally’s family, through perseverance and a tremendous will to survive, along with prayer and the grace of God, made it through the ordeal. Through later assignment the two missionary families eventually reunited, Sally’s parents eventually wed, and Sally and her siblings came into being. A “sacred intersection” it all was, not unlike my one with Sally.
Upon returning home uneventfully a couple of days later I sought assistance at the cell phone store. Upon diagnosing the source of my problem I learned that the person who was helping me was originally from Texas, just like myself. She spent much of her formative time in the same major city where I had grown up. After that, she relocated to a small town in Central Texas that I likely would not know…except that it was the same place where I had subsequently spent 12 years of my early professional career. The odds…the chance…the randomness.
Over a couple of days I gained more education about real lives and circumstances than I likely ever would have picked up in any book.
Steve, a friend of mine, authored a book about these encounters. In it he explores the premise of the stories we have to tell. They are going on around us, all the time and typically we don’t pay much heed to them. We don’t listen, don’t inquire, don’t appreciate. But what if we did? What if every time our story intersected with another person’s story, we used it as an opportunity to enjoy that person and somehow enhance his or her story? The name of his book? “Sacred Intersections.”
By the way how did I meet Steve? I happened to be assigned to sit next to him at a wedding reception last year.
My first challenge is to try to be a little more engaging on jets. For another it might be to pocket the cell phone. Did you know a psychological study has shown that there is a correlation between cell phone focus and the amount of time spent…smiling? What about packing away the ear buds while out on a walk and instead listening to the sounds of nature or even a chance encounter?
What might it be for you?
The Seed Sower