I was working at a historical telegraph station in Alice Springs, Australia, selling souvenirs and passes to the station, and my Canadian accent was a good conversation starter with the tourists who came through. When I told one lady I was from Canada, she wanted to know where in Canada. I mentioned the city and she got excited, saying she was from a small town near there – in fact, the same small town that I grew up in. We couldn’t believe that we were standing halfway around the world talking to someone from “home.” Sure, our “small town” has 10,000 people and we’d never met each other before, but we had that connection and the world felt a bit smaller.
It was a small thing, just a coincidence. But at a time when I was lonely and feeling far away from friends and family, that brief encounter made my day. I smiled whenever I thought about the lady from my hometown. I never saw her again, and maybe she doesn’t even remember the Canadian girl working at the tourist shop. But we never know how we affect the people around us.
I think about that once in a while – all the coincidences, brief encounters, connections that we take for granted. Janny was talking about this on her blog, wondering why she writes and sings when nobody seems to care. Many responded to her post to say that we never know who we touch. We don’t see the difference that we make in other people’s lives. Particularly as writers, when we throw something out in a book, a magazine, a blog, and never know how people respond to it. It may feel like nobody is reading it, when really it has made someone’s day.
As a writer, I’m interested in stories, and as I think about Holy Week, I wonder about the stories around those events. I think about all the random coincidences and chance encounters that could have happened. The Bible only tells us about a few of the people that Jesus met and touched – some blindmen, a few lepers, Lazarus, etc. What about all the people not mentioned? What about the people who didn’t meet Him directly?
I wonder about those who stood in the crowd on Palm Sunday, screaming “hosannas” because everyone else was, hoping for a coming Messiah, seeing a Man passing on a donkey… how did they react? Did they go on with their daily duties or did something change for them? I wonder about the people who saw Him teaching in the temple during the week. Did they think He was just another rabbi, and go on with their duties, or did they stop to listen to a few words, to think a bit more? I wonder about the normal citizens of Jerusalem who saw three criminals dragged out to be crucified. Did they judge the criminals for their crimes, or did they notice anything different about the One crucified in the middle?
There were millions of people in Jerusalem at that time. Jesus couldn’t touch them all. But I wonder how many little encounters – the kind we almost take for granted – made a difference in somebody’s life. Not the big, grand, raised-from-the-dead type of encounters that we all want to see. But the little things. The way He looked at someone as He passed. A few words He said as He taught. Something they heard from their neighbor about Him. Did that change a life too?