Friday, July 26, 2013

Why Marty-From-the-Party Matters

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I’m always intrigued by random assortments of people that get tossed together: people who,
for whatever reason, you were thrown together with, got to know in a superficial yet
strangely substantial way, felt like you really connected with and enjoyed their company, but
know you will never see again.

I always feels a little melancholy after we say goodbye, because on some level, I know there will never be another occasion where we will be thrown together like that. So, essentially, it’s “Goodbye, thank you. I had a genuinely nice evening in your company, but I will probably never see you again. Enjoy your life!”

And for some reason, that makes me sorta sad. There was something so human and connective about the whole interaction, but it was so isolated. Even if it ends up with, ‘That was great. We should try to get together sometime’ – you know it will never happen.

So what sparked this somber train of thought? A party I was at Saturday night with my husband. His friend Danny was turning 50, and Danny’s 21-year-old daughter Danielle threw him a surprise 50th at her mom’s (his ex-wife’s) house.  I didn’t know anyone but Danny, and James (my husband) knew only a few of Danny’s family members and friends. So we sat at a table with another couple, John (Danny’s ex-wife’s husband) and Danielle.

This couple was about 15 years old than we are, but we genuinely had a really nice conversation. James and Marty talked sports, Roseanne and I talked about our yards and how much we hated yardwork; Marty and Roseanne were going to Blake Shelton concert Sunday night, so we talked about our mutual like (I wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘love’) of country music. Sincerely, it was a really enjoyable evening. But in any other universe, I don’t think anything would have drawn us to even speak, let alone ever be friends.

It was the same with John. He told us all about his methods of replanting his hostas and trying to plant hibiscus this year, about the party Danielle had thrown the night before, about the story behind their house as they had it built. It was the same with Danielle – telling us about her internship doing research on hamsters’ brains (Whaaattt?!? She’s really smart), about her upcoming trip to St. Maarten, about her cheerleading experience when Lehigh made it the NCAA Final 64.

All of these random groups of people you sincerely enjoyed conversing with, but will never see again.
It’s a weird, surreal phenomenon to me. It feels like there should be something more after that, some kind of follow up: How was the concert? How did your hibiscus hold up over the winter this year? What happened to the hamsters???

But those questions will never get answered – or even asked – because I will never see them gain.
And this happens all the time: with the lady at the yard sale, with the people you are tailgating next to before the game starts, with the people you wait in line with for an hour at the amusement park…these random chance encounters that are enjoyable for the moment but will never go beyond it. And you feel just a smidge disappointed and maybe even a little sad that they won’t – even though this is totally normal, happens all the time, and is an unavoidable fact of life.

So, if those encounters only ever amount to just those isolated moments, did they matter? Were those minutes wasted if they never translate to anything more significant, lasting or meaningful?

To that, I have to say yes. Because if I say no, then what is the sum total of these “wasted” minutes in our lives, all of these experiences with random people that never go anywhere beyond the moment? They add up to nothing? Do you know how many wasted minutes we would have in our lives, then? Ugh. I just can’t stomach that.

So yes, I have to say they matter because the alternative is too nauseating. But, deep down, I do believe they matter. But why? Why do they matter?

The answer to that didn’t jump right out at me, but here’s what I came up with:

Because if they didn’t, then most of our life doesn’t mean much. We have lots of these random encounters. Our lives really are just strings of these small events connected together. I just can’t believe that they (and by extension, our lives) don’t matter.

Because you never know when a conversation can change someone’s life. Or yours. And even if it doesn’t change that person’s life, you certainly can add enjoyment, entertainment, or encouragement – and probably get it in return.

Because every person is important. Every person deserves to be valued and listened to, even if the topic is not necessarily relevant or meaningful to you. Everyone deserves to be respected, and it is good for our character to do this.

Because you really can learn something from everyone, some little nugget of truth or wisdom that you can assimilate into your own life.

Because I believe God is in control, even of those chance encounters. Everything said and done can potentially have a ripple effect in eternity. And we should treat every encounter that way.

Because, in the grand scheme of things, maybe these random moments with these random people aren’t – or at least don’t have to be – random after all.

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