“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” When Confucius uttered such wisdom two-and-a-half millenia ago, little could he imagine that people would one day begin and end a journey of several thousand miles within a single day! Let alone that such a journey would be undertaken in the belly of a mass of iron, roaring through the sky!
Today I undertake such a journey of 2353 miles. Strictly speaking, my journey started when I stepped out my door, but it is here, at gate number eight in the international departures terminal, that my life intersects with the hundreds of other travellers.
The young Chinese lady keeps an eagle eye on the boarding gate. She taps her foot, crosses and uncrosses her legs, checks her travel documents again ... and again ... and once more, gently rocks, and leans forward attentively with every announcement.
The older German man stretches out his long lanky legs and crosses his arms with the strap of his bag securely around his elbow. Tucking his chin into the padded collar of his winter coat like a bird, he closes his eyes and rests.
The short middle-aged Indian man pulls out his cell phone. He calls a friend, stressing not once but three times that while he thinks he’s turned off the gas, he’s not 100% sure. Could the friend please check? And generally keep an eye on the apartment? Of course, there is no need, but he would feel happier knowing that someone was keeping an eye on it.
The blonde American lady talks loudly to anyone who will listen. She is frustrated because her attempts at speaking a foreign language go misunderstood, she abhors lax safety regulations at the airport, is cross that we are late getting underway, worried about an e-ticket for a connecting flight that will be waiting for her at the other end, and so the list goes on. Perhaps talking relieves some of her nervous tension. It certainly adds to ours!
So many people ... so many journeys ... so many hopes, fears and dreams ... all intersecting at this, the start of our journey.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Today we scurry like swarms of ants over the face of the earth. Why? Our departure cards give us a choice of ten options, but we are only permitted to choose one.
There is a God over all the earth, who sees all our comings and goings, and causes our paths to intersect at times. In Confucius’ day, this God was known as ‘Shangdi’, meaning ‘Above all gods’. Confucius knew about Him, but sadly did not know Him. Today, I offer a prayer for safety to this God over all gods.
Finally our flight is called. Lining up at the boarding gate, I introduce myself to a fellow passenger. My mouth drops when the woman behind me interrupts. “Excuse me, but I believe our parents are friends. You wouldn’t remember me – I was several years younger than you. I’m Lisa Conway.”
Lisa? Impossible! Seated now two rows behind her, waiting for the plane to taxi down the runway, I look at her brown hair, blue clip and red band, wondering what Shangdi has in mind. It is surely no accident that far from home, our lives should intersect on this journey. We’ll sit together once we’re underway. Would Shangdi have me encourage her? Challenge her? Comfort her? Or is it me that needs this connection?
One this is clear. The start of a journey is crucial – as Confucius well knew. But it is who we are and what we do on the journey that matters. Safely arriving at our destination is desirable too!
The mass of iron roars down the runway and rises up into the air. I look down on the rapidly diminishing city and wonder how in the world little me can make a difference. Uttering again a prayer to Shangdi for safety, I also add a request that He will direct the interactions ahead, which He has clearly orchestrated.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I’m on my way!
The journey was excellent. “Lisa” and I had a wonderful time together, and will remain friends for sure. My path also intersected with another woman with whom I’ve had ongoing professional interaction these past few days, in a manner which would not have been possible without our airport interaction.
Thank you, Shangdi.
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