Monday, October 31, 2005

Random Stories from the Road

I'm in the Philly airport waiting for a flight to Detroit. Looking around me I am reminded of that question that plagues every writer, cartoonist, or songwriter: "Where do you get your ideas?" Stories are all around us.

1. An Air National Guard sergeant is sitting beside me. Four people have come up to him in the last half hour and thanked him for his service, shaking his hand, and sincerely wishing him well. He responds that he really isn't someone to thank, that he is "just" in the guard. People wave his humility away and thank him again, tenderly. What kind of man has six stripes on his sleeve and yet considers himself a minor player?

2. One woman was helped over to speak to him. She is elderly and tells him, in a soft voice, that she was a nurse in World War II. He treats her as kindly as if she were his beloved grandmother and she looks at him as an honorable descendant. What stories tie these two together?

3. An Amish woman is walking down the concourse with three little girls, all in dresses and bonnets. They all hold hands. The mother keeps her eyes straight ahead but one of the girls can't help but look all around her at these strange people, foods, clothes, and lifestyles. What is she seeing? What difference will it make in her life? Where are they going? How hard was it for them to get their bishop's permission to fly? Will this trip lessen or confirm their fear of outsiders?

4. Across from me is a young man and woman, both around thirty. She is reading a book on the wonders and blessings of being a stay at home mom. He is reading a book on economics. They stop every now and then and share passages they just read with each other. They smile when they do so, show interest in the other and their reading or insight. From time to time she lays her head on his shoulder. What is their story and how many people in this crowded concourse would give their new Lexus and Rolex for a life like theirs?

5. I spoke at two churches in New Jersey this week. At Tabernacle the teens gathered excitedly on the front three rows every night. They were bright, friendly, and articulate. Their parents beamed with pride over their teen's behavior -- and rightly so. A man who only knew me from the internet drove in from Pennsylvania to hear me in person and remarked that he had never had his hand shaken so many times, been greeted so warmly, and made to feel so welcome as at this little church in a rural area of south Jersey. What brought them to this place? What impact will their simple kindness have on his life?

6. At the Pitman church I saw heroism and Christianity alive and well. The preacher's wife is fighting two kinds of breast cancer and yet is full of smiles, hugs, and welcome. The preacher himself is a lifelong evangelist; one of the best I've ever met. The congregation is a blend of white, black, and Hispanic all living in love and harmony -- perhaps the best example of this I have ever seen. One recent baptism was of a former go-go dancer, now in her sixties and finally home with people who love her. Two others were baptized yesterday. A woman had been in the hospital with a member of the Pitman church who was terminal, yet that woman's faith so affected the other that, after the believer's death, she and her husband came to the baptistry and gave their lives to that same Lord. How many other stories like this are in this church? What kind of spirit lives there?

7. Little stories abound around me. A young African American woman dozes alone in a chair, holding a bouquet of a dozen pink roses. Somebody loves her. What is her story? An older white man, perhaps in his nineties, sits alone, quietly. Does he have someone to help him get to the bathroom or to buy him a soda at the shop across the walkway? Wait! A woman in her thirties has just sat down beside him. Someone is there for him. A woman empties trashcans and has the prettiest face and smile in the whole airport. I speak to her briefly about the nice weather and we both say "God bless you" when we part. Have I just met a Christian? What is her story? What brings her joy in this dark and dusty airport?

I sit here in my Maxwell Smart Edition Cone of Silence and watch God's children all around me. For a brief moment I wonder what God thinks of these people. I know He loves them, but for some reason I am convinced that He is proud of them, too. I cannot articulate why that idea brings me such joy, but it does. May He be proud of me, too.


At 10/31/2005 12:26:00 PM , Blogger salguod said...

Post like this are why I keep coming back here in anticipation. I hope I can have eyes like yours. Sometimes I do, but too often I'm too engrossed in my own life to see that well. Thanks for the reminder that we are surrounded by stories.

At 10/31/2005 01:21:00 PM , Blogger DJG said...

Beautiful thoughts. I spend too much time in my Cone of Silence, but I do love to observe people.

At 10/31/2005 01:48:00 PM , Blogger Niki said...

Ahhhh...a fellow people watcher!

Do you ever wonder if people are watching you and wondering about your story?

At 10/31/2005 03:02:00 PM , Blogger TCS said...

let him who has eyes to see...

Thanks for sharing.. I don't know why it brings me comfort to sit along side you and hear of these people that I don't know, but it swells something inside me.

thanks again.

At 10/31/2005 08:19:00 PM , Blogger Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

You have no idea, Patrick, how much I identify with your post today and how many minutes, hours, days, months and years I have spent watching everyone around me with many questions, much thought and speculation and the feelings, as you say, that these are ALL God's children.

Especially since Katrina, with the long, long lines everywhere, stressed out looks, shortened tempers, and unending stories of loss and devastation, have I begun to talk more with those standing and/or sitting around me to ask them their story to let them know that someone they've never seen before and probably will never see again, wants to, longs to, hear what they have to say.

I have also come to strongly believe that we ALL - ALL of us who are Christians, should go about doing that ALL the time, everywhere we go in every circumstance.

But I would never be able to articulate it as well and as convincingly as you have here today. So, thanks.

Thanks for taking the time in the midst of your watching to share with all of us all you see going on from your perspective there in a dark and dusty airport in Philly. It's a real treat.

At 11/01/2005 09:11:00 AM , Blogger Karen said...

Your blog always uplifts me! It's so encouraging to know that God is working in lives all around the world and that one day we'll all meet in person!

God bless you and your ministry.

At 11/01/2005 09:59:00 AM , Blogger Cheetah, the cheetah said...

I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who watches people and wonders about them. Sometimes after a long, boring airport sit, we'll make up wild and funny stories about interesting-looking people just to pass the time--always shared discreetly in whispers of course!

More seriously though, I do think about people and wonder about their lives, their families and their connections to God...

At 11/01/2005 10:04:00 AM , Blogger Hoots Musings said...

Your post confirms what I recently discovered from a friend from India...we are all the same on the inside and have more in common than we ever realized.

Thank you for your well written post, I am blessed to read your writings.

At 11/01/2005 11:48:00 AM , Blogger markemason said...

Patrick - Again - thank you thank you thank you.

My brother and sister-in-law worship with the Pitman church - they are both professors of ocean science at nearby Rowan Univ. Hope you met them!

I don't spend much time in airports, except for this year. I have made about 5 trips to Memphis and back. A couple brief stories:

1 - I looked up in the Indianapolis airport and saw Glen Campbell sitting across from me. He looked good.

2 - Also in the Indy airport that Sunday, I noticed many individuals wearing NFL outfits. I then realized that the college Scouting Combine had been that weekend and I was sitting in the midst of all the trainers, etc from the Bills, The Packers, and some other teams. The Bills training staff was right behind me - they were busily chatting about the best way to rehab a sprained MCL or something. I turned around and saw one of the guys, about 3 feet tall, totally bald - a perfect twin of Mini-me from those awful movies from a few years ago. Never thought I would see that guy again - and often thought afterward that perhaps he was a mirage - until this past Sunday night, when watching ESPN Sunday night football, I saw that little guy running off the field in New England, actually trying to help a 300-pound behemouth make it to the sideline after getting banged up. I would love to know the story of how he ended up in a profession of giants.

Thanks again!

At 11/01/2005 01:13:00 PM , Blogger David U said...

Patrick....ahh one of the wonderful blessings that just comes with traveling......watching other people! Isn't it amazing?
As you so vividly pointed out, each and every one has a story. And whether we like it or not, most of our stories have some common denominators. One HUGE common one that you pointed out is that we are ALL His children. Period. So as Monte says....."them are not really them, them are us."

Keep posting, bro. And while you are traveling, bring yourself down to Searcy! We want more of your time and wisdom!


At 11/01/2005 04:30:00 PM , Blogger Laurie said...


thanks for a breath of fresh air, being bogged down with statistics this quarter (and next), I needed to think about something much more holy than the thoughts in my head.

Be Blessed. Looking sooooooo forward to January.

At 11/01/2005 09:13:00 PM , Blogger JP said...


Great post and thanks for the kind words about Pitman. Unfortuanetly, I was unable to see you Sunday but I heard you presence was a blessing to all. The preachers wife you mentioned (Kathrine) is an example, isn't she? All that she has to deal with she is just full of spirit and love and you are correct....smiles. God bless you my friend

At 11/01/2005 09:39:00 PM , Blogger Mick Wright said...


At 11/02/2005 01:15:00 PM , Blogger Kevin J. Bowman said...

Thank you... I loved it! I am currently praying that I would have a greater strength to see those in that crowd that need ME to demonstrate Christ love to them, and that I would have the faith to show it.

At 11/03/2005 10:45:00 AM , Blogger CrazyJo said...

I've always enjoyed people watching at airports. I especially love to watch flights unload, and all the hugs and laughter as loved ones connect again. It's beautiful.

At 11/03/2005 12:00:00 PM , Blogger LyndaBee said...

Yep. Been there done that (with my new and improved 2005 super edition Cone of Silence with ShoePhone free with purchase!)

Church on Thursday - over the internet! (And from work - sshhh I'm on a break!)

Thanks brother for letting God speak through you! We're so grateful to have been led to Rochester. No slam intended - but you're the "tip of the iceberg" of the blessings God has showered on us since being part of the family at RCOC.

Have an awesome day!

Mrs. Saxinger

At 11/07/2005 03:15:00 PM , Blogger LJT said...

A note from one of your wandering tent peg followers that has put it down a stake in Aiken, SC. I see you are on one of your trips and pray that the Lord will keep you safe. Myrtle Beach is not the same as Michigan or Aiken but the Lord puts us where he wants us.
Give Kammy and your kids a hug for me and I love you with the love of the Lord.

At 11/07/2005 03:22:00 PM , Blogger LJT said...

Sorry about the last blog but I am a bit new at this and being the crazy engineer from out west my diction is rather poor. Next time I will preview it before publishing.

At 11/07/2005 07:25:00 PM , Blogger PatrickMead said...

I remember you well and wish you well! Thanks for visiting.


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