A few days ago, I sat on a train, headed to Los Angeles for meetings. I was minding my own business. Since Amtrak has wireless, I was grading student reflections on their reading of Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen. The readings invited them to move out of the zone of their own comfort to encounter God in others. One of them, Joseph, wrote:
"God created us to be in relationship with one another. It is my tendency (and I believe most of humanity's tendency) to shut out those around us. I can no longer assume that God can't use all people and all relationships to speak to me."
No sooner had I read this, than a man behind me asked if he could use my cell phone. Busy with my "work" I'd taken no real notice of him. "I said 'no.'" And went back to my work. He stood up and started down the aisle with an handful of five dollar bills asking people if he could pay to use a phone.
He was a middle aged black man, dressed in a black T-shirt and sweat pants. The T-shirt was new. It still had the crease lines from being recently liberated from its package.
"I need to call my wife and tell her I'm arriving at Union Station in LA."
He looked desperate. And his desperation pulled me out of my cramped, little world just enough for me to say, "Hey, use mine. But you don't have to pay for it."
After he'd made the call, I learned that he was on his way home after several years in prison. "Just out this morning," he told me. "Can't wait to see my wife. But I can't walk from the station, 'cause the shoes she sent me are too small."
He grinned happily despite his discomfort. A man who'd just be let out of prison was seeing the world with new eyes.
I've never known a day behind bars, but captivity doesn't require a jail cell. I need others, people very different from myself, to step out of all that holds me captive inside my own cramped little world.
Intention: Help me today, Lord Christ, to see the world with the eyes of one who's not so used to it all that I can't enjoy its wonder.