Have you returned to the office yet? Our building is located in the heart of Indianapolis and I like to drive through the city to get there. Occasionally, I find myself stopped at one particular railroad crossing near the office. Depending on the day and my frame of mind, having to wait for a train can range from a brief interruption to a maddening wait.
A recent stop at that crossing turned into a fifteen minute wait. The kind of wait where you’re looking at the clock every 60 seconds debating on whether or not to turn around and take a 15 minute detour to the underpass around the corner just so you’re actually moving. I didn’t.
After about 5 minutes, I put the car in park and started looking around. My eyes first noticed the line of cars in front, behind, and appearing on the side streets around us. The impatient drivers were obvious as they u-turned, drove around cars in front to make turns, or gunned their engines as they bolted toward the promise of movement. Some faces revealed the frustration with this interruption to their day: frowning and turning their heads back and forth looking for a way around.
Then I noticed children walking along the sidewalks headed to school. There were actually quite a few people on the sidewalks. The houses along the street, normally brief blurs as I move past, took on new dimensions as I watched people emerge, lights turn on or off, or actually noticed details like color, architectural style, or the care with which the occupant attended it. Many cars were parked along the street, offering a similar experience of detail. The block was teeming with life.
Looking more closely, I noticed the trees beginning to bud and the flowers blooming. Daffodils dotted the landscapes all around, splashing yellow brightness against the whites, blues, and grays of the small homes. The old neighborhood held many mature trees: quite a few maples, some oak, redbuds promising pretty blooms, an occasional elm, a smattering of pines, and varieties of bushes edging back to life. The sky was clear and the sun rose low on the horizon, casting golden light across the taller specimens.
Everything was quite alive across these few city blocks. I never really noticed. Blood Sweat and Tears Radio on Pandora marked the moment as Harry Chapin shared his ode to fatherly regrets:
And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
“When you coming home, dad?” “I don’t know when”
But we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then
Those of us in our cars were stopped, but life went on in wondrous variety all around us. And the train rolled along slowly, like time passing before our eyes. Some resisted, some day-dreamed, and some noticed.
Fifteen minutes sounds brief as I type this but it can feel like a lifetime sitting in stopped traffic. On that day, in that moment, I was moved to embrace it. For a few minutes, I saw the people and the world around me in a new way. The raw humanity of the scene struck me and I was reminded that we are all traveling the same roads, encountering many of the same obstacles, fearing many of the same things, and walking through the beauty of it all together. We all share the struggle and the glory of this life we are given.
Today is Easter Sunday. Millions of Christians around the world are celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on this most Holy of days. For those celebrating, it is a day of gratitude and hope. Like my stop the other day, the finite minutes of this passing day gift us a few moments to see, experience, and embrace this life we’re given with gratitude and optimism.
What do you see when you look around you? Do you notice the trees or the birds or the crawling animals? Do you see the many faces looking back at you and acknowledge their humanity or the gift of their existence? Do you see hope in the challenges of your days or opportunity in your struggles? Can you see the many gifts you have or the flow of blessings marking your life? Can you find the joy in the highs and the lows?
Our world may occasionally stop but the wheels on the train keep grinding on. Whether we notice the gifts of our life or not, those wheels never stop. Whatever season of life within which we are walking, those wheels keep pulling us along; there is only forward. We have now for a moment and then it’s gone, never to return.
Sitting in my car waiting for that train to pass, I felt no impatience nor hurry. All I could feel was the preciousness of the moments I was given. All I could do was watch the wonder of the scene around me in all of its normalcy. All I could feel was gratitude.
I wish you and those in your life many blessings on this special day. My prayer is that you are able to see the preciousness of each moment and take the time to revel in its gift.