Dateline: April 4, 2019; Atlanta Airport; Gate C34
People watching is the best.
I could do it for hours.
Today, I’ve had a few hours to cool my heels in the airport, waiting for a flight home to Harrisburg.
Yup, give me a cup of coffee, a big bag of Peanut M&Ms (a treat I give myself when I travel, Lent or no Lent) and a corner seat at the gate (if there’s an electric outlet, all the better) and I am happy to gaze, study, imagine and dream about the great swath of humanity swirling around me.
There are people of every shape and size, color and dress, speaking a variety of languages, talking, typing, reading, listening to music, soothing tired children, eating sushi-pizza-hamburgers-pretzels, and, on occasion, sleeping like babies.
I like to study people and imagine what their stories are… what has brought them to this place? I eavesdrop (in a nice way- uh, is there a “nice way?”) on conversations; tonight I heard a young father explaining the science of aerodynamics and air travel to his toddler daughter (I learned a few things), I overheard a caring older couple reflect on their visit with their grandchildren, and I listened to a conference call between a young woman executive and her assistant at the home office (the field visit went well, now there’s lots of follow-up work to do.)
Traveling presents its physical challenges: I made room on my row of seats for an old women and her daughter with 4 bags and a small puppy between them, was delighted by an entire basketball team in red sweats who rolled around on the big expanse of carpet like a litter of kittens (so lithe!) and I witnessed a young woman with an infant, stroller, ultra-grande mochachinno and carry-on bag negotiate a gate change (we’re now at D11).
My Lenten discipline has added a new dimension to this pastime. I am now looking for Christ in each person, or if not Jesus himself, a sign of some sort of the Divine, the Holy One, or the Sacred. As Lent has worn on, this GOD 640 project has lost its sheen, to be honest. I’m into notebook #2, scratching my hourly observances of God on paper. I’m finding that the challenge is not in finding God, but in really looking and listening… not just defaulting, quickly, to something I’ve written before. In this week’s entries (399/640) I’ve discovered a distinct emphasis on God in the Other. It’s pretty easy to find God in the eyes-words-lips-gestures of our loved ones; attributes associated with kindness, love, compassion, patience, and generosity flow pretty easily in those whom we know and love. Finding God in those whom we do not know is a little trickier. Right now: a young Mennonite/Brethern (?) woman sits across from me in her long skirt, lace head covering, modest sweater. Her face is clean and pure. She gazes across the room. She is serene. I find that HOLY. Four seats down is a woman in her 60s with rail thin legs in florescent spandex leggings, hot pink and orange sweatshirt zipped up to the bottom of her chin. Her curly hair is piled on top of her head, she sits knitting a large lime green shawl with her reading glasses perched on the end of her nose. She has earphones on. Her toe is tapping to the music in her earbuds. She has a broad smile. She is JOYFUL. Next to her, an elderly man in keds, no socks, horned rimmed glasses over his closed eyes, thinning hair swept across his forehead, baggy decades-old tan corduroys with shaggy, tattered hems. For all of the discomfort of travel, he seems the picture of CONTENTMENT to me, PEACEFUL as he awaits the now delayed flight to Harrisburg.
I pause and steal a look at all of the folks sitting here and pray them home, safe and sound, grateful for the diversity that God has given us in the creation of humanity.
This is a dangerous practice, making assumptions. Inventing stories about people I don’t know, daring to assign motives and attributes to people I have only spied. What might they make of me?! Sixty-ish woman wearing a down jacket in Georgia, black leggings and clogs, an olive green tunic that looks like something out of a Midsummer Night’s Dream. Big thick reading glasses; short, thinning hair, black bag, black purse, typing like mad on her laptop. Giant gold ring on her right hand. What is that ring?!? Would anyone find me holy?!? I wonder.
A study in observation, this exercise begs a deeper investigation that might be considered, in our circles, to be… evangelism. The next step for me might be to strike up a conversation…
This week: Study the faces around you. Become an observer of God’s great diversity. Treat yourself to some M&Ms, pull up a park bench and look around- God is there!