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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Sights at a Station and in a City

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He stood less than, or right around, 3 feet tall.

His little nose was as red as a St. Louis Cardinals shirt, and I quickly found out why as I shivered and shook from the cold. What kept me warm was his energy. This little guy, so excited about riding a train, would run up and down the train station, between Broadway and Pekin.


Every once in the while hed take his little hand, which had a mitten that hung on like the last leaf of fall, and cup his ear and yell [from no matter the distance],Hey gramma, I think I hear the train!

Before I could even put my bags down, my new friend came and sat directly next to the spot where I was going to plant myself.

Hi, he said, grinning and introducing himself using his full name. His tone was so matter-of-fact that it made me smile.

I introduced myself and before I even finished my last name my little friend said, Hey, youve got a lot of bags. Are you going to Bloomington, too?

When I told him no, explaining that I was on my way to Chicago, his nose scrunched and he repeated what I said back to me, like little kids often do.

He wore John Deere boots, and excitedly explained not only that his uncle Grant bought him these boots, but why: I have a tractor that has a flat tire, but it can be fixed by uncle Grant because uncle Grant has a tractor too and it works because it was in the parade and I waved at him when he was in the parade and one day when Im not a kid, because Im only 5, Ill ride my tractor in the parade.

As with his introduction, he spoke again with great excitement and enthusiasm. When I asked if this was his first time on the train he told me that a very long time ago, like, when he was 3 he rode the train.

A very long time ago.this, on the day before my 29th birthday.

Later that same day, as I made my way through Chicago, walking stories below skyscrapers and bumping shoulders with people Ive never met, I made some observations:

 Like a forest in the thick of summer, light will always find its way to us, even through cityscapes of erected steel and glass.

I listened to the beat of the city, as beautiful as a drum in worship, in the shaking cup held by a homeless woman.

My heart smiled, hearing different languages spoken.

For a moment, I found some sense of comfort, as I felt myself get lost in the crowd.

Psalm 139 came to mind as I watched people from a bench: I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

As he departed from the train, my buddy stopped, turned around and gave me a big hug. He didnt know me. He was probably taught not to talk to strangers. Yet he did anyway. His willingness to engage with me; his eagerness to listen to my story; and his energy for life excited me for a trip that I was previously secretly dreading.
Before this encounter, I was anxious and a little afraid of heading the big city. My new friend's eagerness to hear my story, and share his, made me feel vulnerable and safe. His honest excitement reminded me of God's presence in our midst. This vitality, found in an unexpected place and through an unlikely encounter, is the relational manifestation of the incarnation, as a holy and necessary disruption in our lives.

It may look like a pair of size 1 John Deere boots.

It might sound like the sidewalk on Michigan Avenue.

Or it might sound like the rhythmic clanking of an Amtrak train.

[Adam Quinn of First Presbyterian Church in Lincoln]


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