Connect With One Another
Spirituality Column #23
Recently I was rushing to catch a plane at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. I was one of hundreds riding the moving sidewalk between terminals. I was relaxing to the recorded New Age chimes. Suddenly I noticed a colleague in AIDS ministry, moving in the opposite direction. There was a flicker of surprise and joy as we recognized each other. Then came a moment of real sadness as we realized we couldn't hurtle the two wide railings and sidewalk between us. So we saluted each other silently, as we were moved along to our respective destinations. There was a mutual understanding that this encounter would not, and could not be more than a brief connection of our eyes.
This rather simple encounter keeps coming back to me, as a kind of symbol. In one sense, it was a moment of real grace, a blessing to me as I traveled, reminding me of my connectedness. On the other hand, this encounter stood for all the fleeting encounters I've had when I just can't take the time to sit down and connect. Life is moving along too fast. I have places to reach, and my destination is often in a different direction than other people I encounter along the way.
Now either of us could have turned around at the end of the moving sidewalk and pursued the other. But I had a plane to catch, and he probably did, too. It was frustrating. The realities of our lives pulled us on. I had to trust that there will be a future chance for a deeper, more complex connection.
Nevertheless, I'm happy that the encounter happened. In spite of the brevity of this meeting, it was more meaningful than some of our longer encounters at other events. There was a momentary recognition that I am connected to other human beings, even in the sterility of an underground airport corridor. There was grace in the chance encounter... the grace of how it lifted my spirits, and I hope his, too. Seeing him reminded me of all the warm, encouraging and productive times we've had when we had more time. And I knew that one day he and I would see each other again at some meeting, and we would laugh about this fleeting encounter.
So on the one hand, I'm tempted to write a regretful moral to this story. It would be easy to focus on how fleeting and superficial our relationships can be. I could despair the lack of opportunity for deeper, more meaningful connections.
However, I am learning to appreciate what I do have, rather than to moan about what I lack. I'm making a conscious effort to do this, because life just seems to be more pleasant that way. I seem to handle stress better. Counting my blessings just seems to make life work better. Taking a positive perspective always has a positive effect on my immune system. It's one of the ways I've learned to live well with AIDS.
There I was feeling quite solitary in the "Clockwork Orange" atmosphere of O'Hare Airport, and suddenly I had an encounter which reminded me that I am connected. I have community. There are moments of grace even in the crowded, anonymous world of mass transportation. My friend's eyes conveyed a greeting which, however brief, reassured me. I am loved, and I love a whole community of people who can pop up anywhere in the world.
The demands of living well with HIV call us into community. We need to stay connected to people. Through our connectedness, we can feel support. We can heal loneliness. And we can receive "bonus blessings" like my encounter at the airport. And those little moments of connectedness can get us through until the next moment of grace.
Jesus said "Love one another." (John 13:34). One basic ingredient to loving one another is to "connect with one another." Do you connect with other people? Do you really look in their eyes? Are you open to the blessings of being connected? Do you allow your connectedness to work for you? Do you appreciate moments of connectedness even when they seem too brief?
"Connect with one another." You never know when those connections might pay off in grace-filled blessings.
©1997 by the Rev. A. Stephen Pieters