I saw him again this morning. The man I think of as my occasional “elevator buddy.” I don’t see him a lot … maybe every couple of months … always in the hospital … almost always in the elevator. His accent suggests that he is African – but I can’t be sure … he is always in a black suit and clerical collar with no wedding ring – so I presume him to be a priest … he is often talking on his cell phone in a language I do not recognize – but he speaks English, too … in my head I think he is connected to San Juan Bautista parish on South Duke Street – but he is not of Latino descent, so I presume I am wrong
We have basically a single conversation in our verbal arsenal. It is one variation or another of this exchange … “You have many in today? … seven … ahhhh, we only have three.” The numbers change and which of us leads off the spoken ritual may be different … but in essence it is the same conversation … every time. One of us then gets off the elevator. I don’t think we have ever exited on the same floor. And I find myself smiling. I don’t really know why, but this simple, repetitive, shallow recital of words invites me to feel connected to my elevator buddy. It makes absolutely no sense … but there you have it … a human connection that could not be more shallow, and yet still touches me with some level of potency.
Do you have moments like this ever? Maybe you and your neighbor exchange a meaningless greeting as you both pick up the morning paper from your front lawn. Maybe the register girl at Giant to whom you often bring your groceries smiles and asks how you are doing? Maybe the couple in your neighborhood that you occasionally see walking their Jack Russell Terrier, always smiles when you ask how “Jack” is doing today. Meaningless, simplistic, ritualized snippets of conversation that somehow embody a human connection which feels a little deeper than the words seem to convey.
Maybe it is the usher that greets you as you enter church … maybe it is the person to whom you pass the attendance book in your pew … maybe it is the lady you smile at as you walk back from the communion rail and nod at as you turn to sit back down. The past couple of weeks we have been engaging the theme of Holy Communion in our Sunday Gospel readings — and when we think of the Lord’s Supper, we also are invited to reflect upon the communion of saints. That phrase almost always elicits thoughts of a heavenly host waiting for us to join them in heaven. It also invites us to remember loved ones that we have lost in our lives gathered around the throne of God. But maybe it also summons us to think about the saints with whom we share this life … casual acquaintances … on again-off again companions … people who play modest roles in our lives, but roles that we typically remember … and maybe cherish. God walks among us every day in the people we meet. Have you ever thought about those persons as the incarnate Christ standing at your side? Why not try it someday, and see how it changes your perspective on the world you are a part of every … single … day.