Faith, Family, Parenting

Train Window

I was awakened last night at 1 AM by the ‘ping’ of a text message hitting my cell phone. The message was my second son wishing his “birthday buddy” a happy birthday. He was contacting me from the North Slope in Alaska where he works in the oil field.

I texted him back quickly and attempted to fall back to sleep — never easy for an insomniac. Lying there enveloped in the silence of the night, I pondered the strangeness of the distance between us, geographically and otherwise.

This child of mine and I once functioned as a single, beautiful, symbiotic organism; me sustaining his life in-utero, as he infused new life into my existence. Twenty-five years later, with him now a man, we live parallel but separate lives—simultaneously traveling through this life, but each experiencing it uniquely. As is true for all of us, some experiences are common to the human experience, yet no two journeys are identical. No two people share the exact same reality.

My mind shifted to a train trip my daughter and I took not long ago. We were booked into a small cabin, which was wonderfully cozy. Nonetheless after several hours of traveling, we began to feel a tad cramped and made our way to the observation deck where we were fortunate to land a couple of lounge chairs facing toward the windows.

I was quickly mesmerized by the central Montana landscape with its expansive wheat fields, cattle ranches, and simple homesteads. The window glass was thick and semi-reflective, adding a dreamlike quality to the passing scenery.

train-window
Central Montana Rails

Surveying the landscape again, this time from memory, I envisioned the train tracks cutting a swath through a living tapestry. Individual scenes appeared like passing snapshots framed within my window and strung together like a motion picture in my mind.

Lying there, I became acutely aware that each photograph in that procession was comprised of the precious elements of an individual life being experienced by a unique person that I will never know, nor will they know me.

For just a moment Thoreau’s “quiet desperation” became almost palpable, as I contemplated a world full of people living concurrent, but fundamentally separate lives. The truth is… on a planet with over 7 billion humans, anonymity is a very real possibility.

My mind went back to the middle-of-the-night text I received from my grown son and his apparent desire to touch base with mom. I was reminded that we all crave connection. We long to be noticed, long to be heard and understood. Few things are more disconcerting than the thought of a life going unnoticed. We need to believe that we matter and I suspect that most of us hope to leave an indelible mark of some kind, to know that our life has counted for something.

Is it possible that, in the context of a culture moving at lightning speed, our need to be known has helped to fuel the explosion of the social mediums of texting, Facebooking, tweeting and yes…blogging? As a newbie blogger I wonder if blogging may be motivated by more than simply the need to create, to wax poetic, or to express an opinion. Perhaps a blog is a way of saying, Hey, I’m here. My life has value.

In a world that threatens us all with obscurity, what a comfort it is to know that I am not unknown to the One who created me. He is the author of my life story. He knows me intimately, loves me passionately, and witnesses every moment of my journey.

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.  Psalm 139:1-4

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