As I write this, I am returning from a somewhat rare business trip, the purpose of which was to interview job candidates. Though I was generally looking forward to this, one the way from North Carolina to Texas, I reframed my thinking. I realized that whether or not we ended up hiring any of the candidates, I was on the verge of getting to know seven new people.
And as I sit in the airport for the return trip, a mother of an approximately five-month-old son is smiling a cooing at him. How he perceives the world will forever be colored by her love.
Every human is a miracle, a convergence of astronomical odds. When you consider the mechanism that takes place to create a human embryo, you realized how unlikely that particular combination of contributions from a mother and father.
That’s nature. Nurture seems even more haphazard. Here’s a story to illustrate: Once I mistakingly thought I had to work at my college job, so I drove back from the beach (in a borrowed car) to get home. About 30 miles into the journey, a car pulled right in front of me as I was traveling about 55 MPH. I smashed into the other car. My car was a total loss, though my injuries were small. The driver of the other car, an older man, was crying when I reached him, as he was cut up be the door glass.
I thought many times about how, if I had not been mistaken about having to work, or if I had been two seconds earlier or later, this would not have happened. This accident changed my life in small ways and probably changed his in larger ways. We all have stories of how such events alter the course of our existence.
There are people I’ve known almost all my life who have made me who I am. And there are people I’ve known for less than a year who have done the same. Sometimes when I’m sad or worried or frightened, I think of some friend and it changes my disposition.
My fourth-grade guidance counselor, Mrs. Darnell, helped me in ways such that I’ve thought about her thousands of times since then. The same with my next-door neighbors when I was growing up, the Covingtons. And there are my current set of friends like Jamie, Sarah, Susan, Aaron, Blaire, and more.
At one point, my wife of 37 years was a stranger in the hall of her dormitory.
And so it is that we are forever changed by those whose path crosses ours. The line from A Course in Miracles is apropos: “When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter.” Be careful how you regard those you meet today, because they may be part of your life always.