Posted by: Robert A. Holsapple | November 16, 2009

Reflection on a Sunday afternoon

It was a glorious Sunday afternoon, so much so that I spent hours wandering around the Penn campus taking photographs and talking to people who were similarly enjoying the last vestiges of good weather for the season.  My experience gave me pause to think and to reconsider what I was going to submit for this column.  I had prepared a rather clever diatribe against yet another glaring social injustice with which we are assaulted on an almost daily basis when I realized that was not what today was about at all.  So with your permission, I will hold off on that rant for another time.

Today was about love.  It was about relationship, kindness, gentleness and all of the incredibly wonderful things our Creator had in mind for our existence as human beings.  It was about celebrating the unfathomable sweetness and joy that comes from connecting with each other, person to person, heart to heart, even if only for the briefest of moments. That is what I witnessed all around me today.

In my time out on Locust Walk this afternoon I met people who were happy to simply be alive or grateful for just another peaceful day to stroll through this special island of harmony that is the campus of Penn.  No I am not ignorant to the fact that there is divisiveness and anger and ignorance and poverty and hatred and all the rest; it simply was not evident in any way today at Penn.

At one point on my walk, I encountered two young women who were involved in interviewing people near the compass.  When I approached them they were at first wary, perhaps suspicious of who I was or what my motives might be for even speaking to them.  I know I do not look like the typical Penn undergrad so it is possible that my very being there raises a question of who I am and what I might want.

But, undaunted, I proceeded to introduce myself and inquired what they were up to because I was genuinely interested in their activity.  They were clearly involved in something that had purpose and as they were stopping strangers who happened to be passersby I figured they would not mind being stopped by a stranger who was himself passing by.

I share this because it made me think about how Jesus went about engaging others with whom he was not familiar.  No, I am not adopting a messianic or evangelistic posture here; and yet perhaps I am.  We know that Jesus was not openly welcomed by all whom he encountered.  But that did not deter him from his purpose or mission.  He told his disciples to do the same to the ends of the earth, to reach out to others and share the love and the joy and the good news that he had come to share.

Perhaps the thing I experienced today was the very idea of connecting with others and sharing genuinely of myself and the reality of the experience of doing just that.  I am not sure why today was the day I chose to step out of my comfort zone.  I am not even sure I can explain why I have not done so sooner than today.  But today it was.

What do I take away from my experience of the day?  A deep and abiding sense of wholeness bolstered by the knowledge that despite whatever trepidation I may have had going into the day, regardless of the awkwardness of the moments when first I met with others, in the end we were able to connect and share something together that many are afraid to even begin to seek after: a genuine, authentic, live face to face connection with someone else.

To recognize and have affirmed that we are indeed alive and have something of value to share with someone else is, in the final analysis, reward enough for having taken the risk of walking up to a total stranger and saying hello.  I wonder what would happen, how we might be able to impact the world one person at a time if we did not have to wait for another glorious day in some far-off November to do this again. Imagine such a thing.  Better yet: make it happen!


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