I’m sitting in Union Station in DC observing the moveable feast of humanity, thinking about the fragile ecosystem that is a train station.
I’m in a time-release, sped-up view of one spot and all the life that passes by, all the things happening in a transportation hub.
I’ll skip the blah-blah-blah, the obvious storylines of folks being more attuned to technology than to each other, the trite musings on the infinite number of Starbucks that can have long lines all at once, the seemingly endless capacity of folks in DC to discuss “policy,” saying things like “I want to be a value-add.”
I won’t write again about my never-ending awe over the variety of people God made, and the sheer number of hairs on the heads of all of us (a number He is reported to know… though oops, there went a strand as that woman flicked her hair with her hand).
I’m thinking about ambivalence, about the push-pull of social interactions, about the risks of engaging others. I say I want to engage people, be available to the pain of the city, yet I’ve chosen to do it today from behind some plants that mark public space from more private, the domain of those of us who had enough money to buy breakfast and coffee. “We” are in here, pulling nice luggage, wearing suits that befit Capitol Hill jobs, discussing, as I said, “policy.” (In DC, it’s always about policy.) And I’m observing from a distance those beyond the potted plants and musing:
How difficult it must be to go through all of life with a port-wine stain covering one’s face, to be constantly brought back to the remembrance of it with each new stranger who stares.
I’m admiring a pigeon that doesn’t know he doesn’t belong and moves between both sides of the potted plants.
I’m trying to ignore a man circling nearby because I’ve met him before, and the erratic nature of his mental illness scares me.
I’m avoiding eye contact with another woman (I think she’s a woman) rocking back and forth, looking sad and needy.
I’m looking up and smiling at a cute German girl in red jeans, blond hair and funky glasses, hoping we can interact and I can have a safe, benign stranger encounter.
I’m chuckling over the woman so lost in her rapture over the beautiful architecture of this station’s vaulted ceiling that she doesn’t realize she’s hiking up her underwear in front of all of us. Ma’am, you are not invisible.
The beautiful girls from South Carolina, wearing clothes that match just a little too much and makeup that’s just a bit more obvious than we do here… well they just slay me with their fresh energy and nervous eyes, ready to change the world through their internships but also a bit afraid of this volatile, divided place.
I love strangers.
I’m mad about tourists, the ones that stand on the left on the escalator and have no idea that we locals are irate at them because we want to rush by.
I love the ones who take selfies in groups of 15, heavy backpacks, matching t-shirts, amazed that they are here, finally!
I’m in love with the earnest parents who bring their children to DC to “learn things” and then give up and let the kids jump on the hotel beds and swim in the pool, cause that’s all the kids (and parents) want to do anyway.
They all matter. They all crisscross and intersect here, scarcely aware of each other. Or me.
And yet we’re all each other’s strangers, each other’s neighbors.
We’re all implicated in loving each other.
And nobody ever said that would be easy.
The world works better than it has a right to, given all our collective neuroses, divisions, fears and ambitions. Common grace pervades.
And train stations, the domain of both the people who are going places and those who have absolutely nowhere to go, make it all the more obvious.
And I’ll step out beyond the plants, phone in pocket, eyes ready to engage. And I won’t hike up my underwear, no matter what.