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.