Funny how sharing the same tiny space with a stranger for less than 60 seconds can alter the course of a day.
I had to go to the dentist this morning. No big deal. On the way in, I finished up a call, silenced my phone, and was in and out of the dreaded chair in less than a half hour. Virtually painless, I happily reflected. On the way out, I reset my phone, stopped in a restroom to touch up my lip gloss for a lunch meeting and washed my hands. Then I got onto an elevator and checked emails on my phone.
A second later, I stopped when the door opened. It seemed like a short ride down but I moved to get out before I realized I still had another floor to travel down. A young man, dark-haired and slight, stepped in.
I retreated back into the elevator, absently smiled at the young man and asked him how he was doing. Before he could answer, I was glued to my phone again.
“I just found out that I don’t have HIV.” It was a near-whisper but I think my head shot up like the man had yelled at me.
“Excuse me?” I queried, offering my full attention now. I was pretty sure that I hadn’t heard right.
“I had to wait two weeks.” The man’s hands clutched a white bag full of medicine samples but he sported a 500-watt grin. “But today they told me I don’t have HIV.”
In a split second my mind chased a thousand thoughts. I took in this stranger’s thin frame, his pale cheeks. I thought about his young life, about his friends and family and about what the past fourteen days must have held for all of them. I didn’t know him at all, but for just a second, the weight of what he’d carried – and was now releasing – felt like it belonged to me too.
“I’m so happy for you,” I recollected myself. “I can’t imagine what these past couple weeks must have felt like.”
The man’s expression crumpled as he met my gaze. “Yeah. It’s definitely been something.” He looked down as the elevator door opened. “Really something.”
That was it. We both stepped off and as he answered his ringing phone, I laid my hand on his fragile shoulder and said it again. “Really. I’m so happy for you.”
He smiled at me. “Me too. I’m thankful.”
Then I went on to my meeting and he went wherever he was going and that was that.
But I thought about him the rest of the day, thought about how God causes lives to connect at these given moments, these intersections unplanned by us but appointed by Him. And then I thought about those things that bring rest to our souls – good news from a doctor, an awaited email or text, an unexpected smile… a new well that ends having to walk miles for water everyday…
And as I sit here tonight typing and thinking about all of this and about how I was so ridiculously fixed on my phone when there was a person who needed to say something, I’m keenly aware of this: to be created human and in God’s image makes us intended to help heal and be fully present wherever it’s needed. Whether that’s in central Houston in an elevator or the bush of South Sudan. To be human is to be ever so fragile yet unbelievably strong as we attempt to live and move and breathe within the love and mission of God.
All this said, I’m praying that as we live and work among our sisters here to help effect change with our sisters in South Sudan, that we’ll take every opportunity to be fully present in the moments God gives us. Fully present in all such instances so that we miss none of what He has planned in and for them…