Out and about

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It was one of those unusually warm spring afternoons. My next Encore class at St. Lawrence College would not be for another hour and a half. I had forgotten to have lunch until just then when my stomach growled. The mid-day crowd would likely be gone by now at the fast-food place.

The corner booth provided a cozy, cool spot in an empty area in which to read my assignment. But before I had time to open my papers, a family chose to take over a couple of seats beyond mine, to the right. There were two little ones: a boy about four and a girl, perhaps a year younger. The mom and dad got busy portioning-out the fries, hot dogs and drinks. Suddenly, the organized harmony was disrupted! A shrill cry surfaced from the carrier, which to this point had been tucked away on the seat. Not really a cry, it was more of an endless wail that would inevitably continue until the precise cause could be identified—perhaps a wet diaper, or hunger, or thirst or, heaven forbid, no detectable reason whatsoever.

While all that chaos was transpiring another group settled in the booth, one down and across from the first lot. Two women and a second howling infant, no doubt having been set off by the first! Or is that their way of communicating? “Hey I’m over here! Can we talk?”

Then the most extraordinary thing happened. These two sets of complete strangers began an intimate exchange—as though they had known each other for years—addressing such matters as the premature birth of each infant, their weight, their feeding ritual, their temperament and their sleep patterns. And by some uncanny miracle (which clearly these two little ones represented) the familiar hum of their mom’s voices thankfully calmed each bundle to utter tranquility. All was right with their world.

At last in the quietness, I was able to concentrate on my reading. The next thing I realized was that the two families had left having been replaced by an older couple. What a difference from the former, though equally as distracting. They sat in absolute silence throughout their meal. Not a single syllable! Perhaps it was their own comfort level, having known each other so long that neither felt the need to speak. Or were they just talked out? Did they have nothing more to say to each other? They were there for food, period. I couldn’t help but feel sad. “Your time together is so precious,” I wanted to say. “Life is too fleeting! Don’t live with each other in self-imposed solitude.”

So in the midst of reading the controversial Gospel of Judas, I had the opportunity to experience two other unexpected revelations. I guess I could have found a peaceful spot in the park overlooking the river and read my papers there surrounded by the grandeur of creation. I’m glad I didn’t this time. There are so many things around us in our everyday life that we ignore or consider to be irrelevant. If we pay attention, however, there is so much that is of momentous significance.

Organizations: Lawrence College

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