Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Miracle of Strangers

Earlier this summer I found myself, through the joys of flight scheduling, with multiple hours to kill at Chicago O'Hare.  It would have been easy, I suppose, to fill the time noodling about on my phone, flitting from social media to email to a gaming app. 

But with hours spent sitting on my behind on planes already a central part of my day, I just couldn't stomach the thought of that level of inactivity.  So, after a delicious Smoothie King lunch, I decided to walk the concourses.  Which I did.

For nearly two hours.  

Seven miles of walking, according to my fitness app, all through the swirl of thousands of travelers heading to destinations all across the planet.

My intent was to keep a little fit, but as I walked and watched the flow of humanity around me, I began to pay attention to the faces of that river of strangers.  Thousands upon thousands of strangers, people that I have never seen before, and will never likely see again.  

Families with children.  

A large tour group of Japanese tourists.  

A Somali woman and her daughter.  

A Mennonite girl, traveling alone.  

So many faces passed by that I couldn't help but marvel at how full the world is of souls we don't know, and marvel more deeply still at how intimate and accurate our ability to recognize the faces of others is.  In this teeming throng, my eyes dancing from face to face, I didn't for one instant mistake someone for someone I knew.  Every one of those people was unfamiliar, and that unfamiliarity seemed as I walked to be a marvel of God's creation.  So many unique persons, each with their own story, each uniquely gifted with their own graces and possibilities.

It's one of the miracles of humanity, and a marvel of our richness as persons.  In a time when we so often fear those who are unfamiliar, those moments as I walked through a flow of faces were an unanticipated blessing, a reminder of the strange holiness of our encounter with the stranger.