I’m an extrovert. For those of you who know me well this comes as no surprise. I love people. I love to run into a friend whom I haven’t seen in a while and it’s a wonderful experience to meet strangers and to listen to them as they share about themselves. It’s such a joy for me to hear their interesting stories. And it’s touching when I observe how easily someone tells me about their son’s new job or a daughter’s high honors or how a serious illness has impacted the family. When I look at their faces, I see beyond the wrinkles and the furrowed brow. Their eyes speak volumes. Some encounters are forever imprinted in my heart.
A few weeks ago I traveled alone to Denver. When I finally got to my gate and settled into my seat, I turned to the young woman next to me to ask her a simple question. She didn’t respond. After I few seconds, she pulled one earplug out and said, “What?” It startled me initially but it shouldn’t have. I noticed all around me were folks on their cell phones or iPads. It truly was a sight to see! Hundreds of people sitting next to one another yet there was no eye contact with anyone. The screens separated us all from one another. Honestly, I do understand that many are conducting business of one kind or another as they travel and of course, sometimes we just don’t want to talk to anyone. But the experience was unsettling to me because it seemed to be an icon of our times. We are becoming increasingly isolated and many of our “friends” are virtual. Are live conversations happening anywhere?
I don’t like being cynical. It goes against my grain, but this phenomenon is disturbing to me and I am concerned about our millennials, our teens and our little ones. It’s even affected my own generation. And yes, I am guilty, too. We all have so much to learn from one another but most of our information is coming from somewhere “out there”. Society seems to be groaning with heavy sighs of loneliness and discontent. The decibel level of arrogance and anger and division is painful and I wonder how our love and care for one another can be restored.
I want to hear your story. I want to know what’s going on in your life. You are more important to me than the text message that just went off. Can we, this Lent, be a little more aware of who is sitting next to us, be it a family member or a stranger who just asked you what time it is? That someone may need your attention, your smile, your listening ear. Could that someone be the Christ you need to encounter? Or are you being called to be Christ for someone else?
Lord, help us to be more aware of your presence in others. Let us be attentive to their voice. Let us see You in their eyes, in their tears, in their smiles. Wean us from things that separate us from what is real and right in front of us.