And in this season of Advent when we are waiting for the One we are told is coming, I remember the short conversations, chance encounters on sidewalks, in fields, at the side of the road, over café counters – the surprising gift of who I have met along the way this year.
People like Justin staffing the famous “Elsie Volunteer Fire Department Biscuits and Gravy” Food Tent out in what feels like the middle of nowhere on the “Hood to Canal Relay Race.”
It’s early this Saturday morning, recovering from my last run, and while looking for something to eat, I spot an unusual sight – a small boy in a firefighter uniform.
Yes, he says.
We shake hands.
What year are you in school?
I’m going into fifth grade.
Fifth grade? And you’re really a firefighter?
Yes! And my sister Rebecca is too. She’s going to be a sophomore in high school. We’re part of the Elsie Fire and Rescue. Our Dad is the Captain.
That’s just incredible. You mean you really put out fires and all that?
He smiles. Yes, car and forest fires and all that. I can’t go into buildings until I’m older.
You must be the youngest firefighter around!
Hey, I write a blog post and I wonder if I could take your picture and share your story.
Later, just before we leave, Justin comes bounding down the field.
Hey Peter, do you like the Seahawks?
It’s meeting people like Mark Bryant – sitting next to me at lunch at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. I’ve come here after the worship service is over to pick up Tsuneko – and indulge in the great coffee hour lunch they serve here including Mel’s famous chili today.
I sit down next to Mark. I’m told he just won a national championship for weight lifting.
I introduce myself to learn not only that he won the national championship but had started weight lifting in his thirties and was now 58. And had his hip replaced a few years back.
“You had your hip replaced and weight lift!” I exclaim.
“Yes, most people say they can’t believe I do it.”
“How did you find this church?” I ask.
“Because of…” and he points out three elders in the room. “They are all in an exercise class I teach in Rainier Beach. They invited me to church a few months ago.”
Connections, encounters, surprises at lunch or at the gym. Perhaps such meetings that can turn a day, open our imagination are around us every day.
He hands me his two medals.
“They weigh a ton!” I exclaim.
Thanks Mark! Thanks Justin! You’re for Real – and really inspiring to me.
Inspiring me to get out on the road and find the story, meet the one waiting to meet me in the faces of those along the way.
Jesus, help us this Advent to see you in the faces of those we meet out on the road today. Amen