The Wide World

I’m in the living room, shuffling about inside our first story fish bowl, when the movement catches my eye. It’s 10pm, dark outside, and the street below, dividing this line of red brick apartment buildings and the opposing line of vine-covered sorority houses, is deserted.

No cars roll past, despite the advantageous location of this particular street, or the way traffic parades- busy, but never crowded- up and down, east and west, all day long. No headlights, no tires rolling. But across the street, in the shadows of the buildings beyond, a lone man walks.

In the living room, I stop my cleaning, straighten my back and watch him, for a moment. He’s wearing a blue sweater, the hood bouncing behind him as he moves. His steps are fast, faster than usual walking pace, and I lean on the window sill for just a moment, until he turns suddenly, quickly, and disappears into the walkway between two of the towering stone buildings.

I remain at the window for a moment longer, after I’ve lost sight of the man across the street. I did not recognize him, but something in the pace, the direction, the blue sweater, caught my attention, and I’m not ready to return to my cleaning. Not quite yet.

My head just barely touching the cool glass, I watch the street, my eyes wandering up the dark asphalt. I take in the cars parked neatly along our side of the street, the distances between cars an indication of either poor parking abilities or an excess of space. I watch the corner of the alley for a moment, half-heartedly curious if someone else will appear on the empty street.

After a time, no one else has appeared, but I realize as I stand there with the half-clean room behind me, watching an empty street on a quiet night, that it’s not the man that held my attention, but rather his movement, his apparent preoccupation. His Saturday night rush up the street has drawn my mind, my thoughts, outside of myself. It’s a little thing, to watch a man hurry up the street, but it’s a big thing for his very existence to be a reminder of the billions of people, lives, stories, beyond my own, and the God who is sovereign over them all.

And when I pause to think about it, I realize I’ve been doing this all weekend long. Standing outside for two hours this afternoon, loosely supervising the playtime of six neighbor kids, I find my gaze wandering to the intersection just yards away. I watch the cars, the bikes, the pedestrians. And I see in every one of them- in their very existence- the vastness of the world. I wonder at their unique heartache, their fascinatingly individual life, and yet alongside the differences that separate my story from hers, his struggle from mine, I know there lie so many similarities. The human race is like that.

Maya Angelou said We’re more alike, my friends, than unalike, and I don’t know to whom she was speaking, or to what she was referring, exactly, but I will tell you now that I believe her every word. Because I may not know the thoughts behind the eyes of every heart I saw walk past our kid-filled yard this afternoon, but I know Who does. I may not empathize with, or every understand, what each heart needs, but I know He does.

And every time I tumble head over heels into the things that I think and the things that I feel and the things that worry me, I come back to all those people, and the wide world we inhabit, and the One who created it all. And in that, I find comfort, peace, and the grounding of a perspective beyond my own small world.



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