I’m pretty busy. I think it’s safe to assume you are, too, and that you are probably skimming this on a quick break from whatever you’re in the midst of. I’m honored and blessed that this caught your eye, and that you’re taking the time to read it. I encourage you to find more time to hear the stories of others. What’s more important in life isn’t the money you make, but the stories you hear. Let me explain.

On my way to work this morning, running late, I ran into a random stranger. He stopped me and commented on the color of my car. Antsy, I tried to signal with body language that I was in a hurry. But either this guy didn’t get it or didn’t care. He continued, saying it was the most beautiful color, that he had a plane once that was the same color. He loved that plane. Apparently he used to be a pilot instructor. Now, he’s a jazz musician. I’d say that’s a pretty big leap in career, but I went from a musician to a draftsman to a pastor. Leaps happen.

Apparently this pilot-turned-musician had some twenty-thousand hours underneath him as he’d been flying for a few decades. Since becoming a musician, his beloved plane sat for awhile. A buddy of his was selling his house and thought it would be cool to have an aerial view of the his home. So my new friend fixed up that old plane to get it in the air again. He laughed as he told me he knew every nut and bolt on it.

Unfortunately, he made the stupid decision to take the shot himself while he was flying. Mid-shot, he stalled. He showed me his shattered teeth and his busted up leg. He was in a wheel chair and hadn’t showered for days. Apparently, he was refusing to see his girlfriend because he wasn’t presentable. His laugh was awesome as he told me never to refuse an Italian. Italians are passionate, so he said, and he loved her for it, how she scolded him for worrying about his appearance. I think he loved how concerned she was for him.

His instructors used to say that the best landing is one you can walk away from. He didn’t really understand what that meant at the time, but it sounded good. So when he became an instructor, he told it to all of his students. After his crash, he now knows what it means. He’ll never again tell it to his students. He told me the best landing is the one where nobody gets hurt.

I only stopped to listen for a moment. As I said, I was running late to work. In hindsight, I wish I’d taken more time to listen to his story, to hear more. Would Jesus have rushed on to the next event, or stayed behind and listened? What did it communicate to this random stranger that I was in a hurry and didn’t stop to hang out for awhile?

I get that we can’t always delay our lives. The luxury of my job is that my day begins when I clock in. If I’m late, it’s no big deal. But out of respect for my employer, I try to be there at a certain time every day. However, this particular day, I could have been late and nobody would have cared.

What example am I setting for my son that I am not willing to pause for a moment simply to chat with some random stranger? My son loves walking up to random people and saying hi. It kills me because he has no sense of stranger-danger. He’ll even walk up to one of those really scary biker dudes, you know the one with the tattoo on his hands that say “love” and “hate.” On the one hand, it scares the hell out of me. No parent wants their kid to walk up to total strangers.

On the other hand, it’s pretty cool. I want to figure out how to encourage this in my son so that he isn’t afraid of the people around him, but loves and respects them. I want to encourage him to spend time listening to people’s stories. The stories he hears from random strangers may not seem like much at the time, but they will be more valuable than anything else he experiences.

That’s what community is: people sharing stories. That’s what it means to be a Christian, following a story about some guy two-thousand-years ago that changed the world. What would have happened had the disciples rushed on, or never taught their children, or retold the story? We may never have known the most influential story to have ever been.


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