I and Who? (part one)
The flight attendant’s passed my row a few times though still early in the flight. I cannot tell you her name, if she has children, or how long she’s been with American. I cannot even tell you the color of her hair.
I’ve not regarded her as human.
She is “Flight Attendant”. One who instructs the emergency row dwellers (eight rows ahead), dispenses regreshments, peddles boxed snacks, and – I suppose – provides aid in the event of various emergencies.
To me, she’s not Madeline, mother of Deirdre and Paul. She is not a struggling widow, living in New Hampshire, who dead heads to DFW every workday. I don’t know that she lost her husband to an IED in Afghanistan and, because of a bureaucratic snafu, hasn’t received her survivor benefits, leaving her without his income and his pension.
I do not know this because Madeline, to me, is an “it”.
In my life there are thousands of encounters with “it’s”— people with amazing stories who, in the name of effiency, I have reduced to their functional equivalent.
Yet, I know every human being is perfectly and wonderfully made.[Psa 139:14] Each is uniquely created in God’s image [Gen 1:27], and each is an opportunity for the Kingdom of God to engage very real needs of those for whom Christ died.
Martin Buber’s I and Thou has been so unsettling as to compel a profound examination of my heart, character, and way of life.
God changed me.
Commonly, our interractions are cursory, shallow exchanges of niceties and information, facts, feelings, opinions, and doings-on. Safe and riskless, Buber calls this: “I and You”.
I’ve not delved deeply into who you are as a fully-orbed human being, one in whom God is working in marvelous ways and someone on who’s neck Christ’s satan has a boot. To encounter you in this way takes risk, curiosity, patience, and trust.
Relationship is investment.
Invest little and the relationship will be insubstantial.
Invest considerably and the connection can be vast, prodigious, precious. An “I and Thou” relationship won’t be simple, easy, or inexpensive. Your heart will become engaged, at stake for the other. Yours will soar with her successes and suffer at her sorrows…and you’ll sit—undone—in the ambiguity of what’s disorderly and unresolved in her life.
“I and Thou”.
By the way “Madeline” is Stephaine. A brunette, she lives in Cowan Heights and has a stepdaughter who’s studying at the University of South Carolina.
Coaching Distinctions #87