Awhile back Elizabeth and I were at a conference where this quote from Mister Rogers was shared. I had heard it before…and I agreed with it…and I liked it well enough but it didn’t touch my heart the way it did that day and how it has since.
It seems as though that quote was directed at me and was to be a reoccuring theme in my life from that moment on. I keep finding myself in situtations and with people that, at first glance, I wouldn’t imagine having a lot in common with.
From the 20 foot tall foul mouthed cowboy at the gas station who I randomly struck up a conversation with and ended up buying my drink to a spanish speaking elementary student who has decided that we are best friends.
But one of the situations I keep thinking about happened this spring while Elizabeth and I were on the way home from St. Louis. We had just gotten off a stessful flight (a seriously crazy story for a different time), it was already 10 at night and were in Phoniex for a layover that was about to be delayed…for hours.
After grabbing some nachos and a soda before the last food joint closed we settled in on some stools at a charging station to wait for our plane. Presently a couple came walking by having a tense discussion. They stopped a few feet away. Apparently their plane was delayed, their phone was dead, and they needed to let their ride know they wouldn’t be in Las Vegas until much later than expected.
How do I know this? Because I eavesdrop. I know, I know it’s a bad habit….but I can’t help myself!!!
Elizabeth called over to them that we were sitting at a charging station and they were welcome to use it but they just nodded and walked farther away. (I don’t think we looked like their brand of fun.) But a few minutes later they were back. Maybe they would use the station they said standoffishly…it was apparent they were in no mood to visit.
However, they didn’t have a phone cord to charge their phone. Luckily I did…and now they were stuck. With their phone plugged inbetween Elizabeth and I they were trapped next to us while their phone charged. They turned sideways and shifted their weight uncomfortably. I picked at my nachos. This was uncomfortable.
“So…what are you doing in Vegas?” I asked.
“We’re getting married, ” the woman replied.
And with that it was all over.
We talked and talked with this couple for hours. We learned that they were both born and raised in Detroit…that he was an inner city youth pastor…that she has been a single mother and a foster mom for years…that he was raised by a single mother whom he admires…that they both have a deep devotion and love for their children…we shared stories and discovered that although our backgrounds were very different, on inside we were all very much the same.
Our conversation must have been contagious because after awhile we were joined by a grandma from Philly (with an amazing accent!), a mother of two adult handicapped boys in Idaho, and a gentleman with amazing hair who lives on a reservation.
I remember a moment somewhere before midnight that I looked around into the faces of our little group. They were all so different but oh so valuable…each of them in their own way were making their corner of the world a better place. And even though I was tired and dirty and ready to be home I was thankful that the universe brought us together that night.
I can’t speak for Elizabeth but for me the lesson that night was profound. We could have ignored the couple. They could have refused our help. We could have spent our layover in silence. But that’s not how it happened…and I am a better person for it. I don’t think I will ever forget that good couple…on their way to Las Vegas for their third marriages…who met at a church fundraiser…and are committed to the idea that when we lift each other we all rise. Their examples have made me stronger.
You never know the stories behind the eyes of those you meet…and the Mister Rogers was right…once you hear and understand their stories it’s hard not to love them.
Like I said, I think that is the theme of my year…..and if this is to be my theme, I will gladly take it and feel blessed.