(Note: The thoughts that follow come from the art on an American Airlines napkin, the kind you get with pretzels or small cookies. This mini-drawing symbolized the span of the United States cities using only a single line. An intricate, beautiful line that joined both coasts to the middle of this great country.)
However it happens, we are connected. What joins us to each other are lines: Tangible and intangible strands of shared qualities, histories, experiences, passions or values. Some we know well: The connectivity that comes from family, work or friendships. In other places—where we think of ourselves as strangers or out-of-place—the connections don’t appear to exist.
A wonderful truth, though: Those lines are still there. We are still connected, but haven’t yet discovered how or why. An appreciative conversation can erase that doubt. In the give-and-take of mutual discourse, we might discover that an imagined stranger is more assuredly linked to our circumstances than we thought. The longer the conversation—or the longer an experience occurs—the more those lines reveal themselves. Tendrils of similarity become sturdy cords of association. We know each other.
Lines of relationships are vulnerable, too. Those that haven’t been examined or exercised in awhile grow thin or dim. Memories fade. Difficult circumstances may damage or fray those lines. Disagreements can emerge out of imagined similitude. Hurts, sorrows or disappointments can eat at the bonds. The temptation to break the connections hovers over even the strongest associations.
One of the greatest satisfactions in my life has been to find those lines. The ones that join me to others, but also the connections among people who don’t know each other very well. Perhaps there’s an extrovert living inside of me, or maybe I just value the power of relationships, but one way to describe my lifework might be to think of me as a lineman—someone who strings, restrings, repairs or strengthens the lines that join people together. The relational line I trust most assuredly? God’s loving presence across all time and space.
Stronger and longer than that line on the American Airlines napkin….
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