It was later in the week. I had brief encounters with the other participants, but intending to see and do as many things as possible and take advantage of my time in Virginia, I had not always stuck to the crowd. I often broke out on my own and walked at a faster pace. In fact some of the younger ladies mentioned putting a bell around my neck so they could keep better tabs on me. They never knew where I was or which direction I might be coming from.
There were, however, times in which my connections to the other participants really touched my heart. Again, one of those times was later in the week. I felt somewhat of a connection to two sisters from Oregon. They were funny, fun to be around, and easy to talk to. We had some free time to eat a voucher lunch, so we sat down to have a sandwich, chips, and a cookie in an outdoor dining area.
I've made many observations of conversations throughout my life, taking note of how topics change on a dime, triggered by words and the thoughts of the involved individuals. Sometimes that can be very frustrating as I have more to add about a particular topic, but the conversation has already shifted. While eating across from SHARON and JANINE on that picnic table, the conversation was personal.
We had already made a different connection. I mentioned that I would be preaching the morning after returning home, and they asked about my religious affiliation. "I'm a member of the church of Christ," I answered, and they were shocked. They quickly told me that they were raised in the church of Christ, but that they had drifted into other beliefs through the years.
But now, sitting at the picnic table, SHARON shared her personal struggles with the recent death of her dad. She opened up to me, and her feelings just spilled out onto the table. It was a moment when I could also bring up the death of my own dad. We connected to each other over our similar experiences. We related to each other over strong and moral fatherly influences, and we missed them. I just can't forget this time when two virtual strangers were able to cry together without embarrassment in a public place. It was just a natural moment in time that transcended the presence of any others. In fact, it was such a natural moment that I don't think anyone else even noticed.
We make some connections in our lives with other people, but it's hard. We hold back with our friends out of embarrassment. We try to stay strong with our family, not wanting to lead them into their own weaknesses. And we would never choose to show vulnerability in a strange place with strangers. But sometimes, we are strengthened when we allow ourselves the reality of a moment. I don't know if its possible to predict such times, but I do believe we should be on the lookout for them. Perhaps we'll find more of them when we allow ourselves some freedom.
The other participants at CWTI were the best of all the educational trips I have experienced, and I'm happy to call them my history siblings.