Remember friends, there'll be another of Amanda's sketches given away next week, plus a Q&A with her, so stop by on Monday for a few minutes and enter to win. And thank you all so much for helping me spread the word about Touching Wonder via your blogs and FB pages and Tweet decks...really, thank you.
Prior to this week, my last airline experience was in August; I was flying back from Phoenix. As I boarded the big old jet airliner, I found my row and seat, and chuckled. I had been placed, strangely enough, beside two striking young ladies. As I struggled to fit my one carry-on into the overhead, their thumbs smoothly navigated the screens of iPhones, and designer handbags rested on their long-skirted thighs. Accomplishing my task, I sat down and said hello; my immediate seatmate returned the greeting.
I chuckled again. We were quite a row, I tell you. A forty-something jake in Levis and a ponytail beside two teenagers in white bonnets and prairie skirts adorned by unMaybellined-faces. After the plane leveled-off at howevermanythousandfeet, my curiosity prevailed.
Hi, I'm John.
Hi, I'm Missy.
May I ask you about your faith?
Oh, yes, we're Mennonite. We get asked a lot.
Do you know how some folks just put you at ease? Missy had the gift. We talked a little about our points of origin and destination. Missy told me she and her sister were headed to visit family. I told Missy I was a writer from Colorado. She tried to look impressed; I told her there was no need.
Missy, what is your favorite thing about being a Mennonite? Yikes, that's a horrible question, isn't it? (She laughed at me, putting me further at ease). I mean, what feels special to you about how you're growing up? (She paused a moment and scratched her bonnet).
I can do the things that make Jesus happy. The Bible tells me what I should do and when I do those things, I know He's happy.
Now folks, there's a chance that Missy the Mennonite could have been pulling the wool over my ponytail, that as soon as she and sister reached their destination, they were gonna ditch the floor-length skirts for minis and fishnet and they had told Jacob the Elder he could kiss off 'cause they were headed to LA to live, really live. But I didn't get that feeling...I really didn't. What I did feel was the presence of a goodness and innocence like I'd not experienced in a long time. I was lucky enough to travel, if only for a few hours, beside two girls making Jesus happy. And it made me happy. It also made me sad as I looked at their faces, places where the scars would be...
I boarded another plane this week, heading from Chicago back home. As I found my aisle seat, guess what two people were sitting beside me? No, not Missy and sissy; this ain't the Paul Harvey show. I found myself sitting beside two Buddhist monks, shaved heads, saffron robes and all. I'm not making this up. Again, we were quite a row to behold. I wondered if we might get into a riveting conversation about faith, and people two and three rows away would hush and listen to our wrestlings and it would all conclude with a symbolic exchange of the leather bracelet I wear for some ancient Buddhist amulet and we would bow and say namaste to one another backdropped by a snowy Denver. But that didn't happen.
I did notice, however, their robes were embroidered with the words BODH GAYA and a colorful rendering of a temple. "Bodh Gaya is the place where Gautama Buddha attained unsurpassed, supreme Enlightenment. It is a place which should be visited or seen by a person of devotion and which would cause awareness and apprehension of the nature of impermanence."
As the two young monks sat and talked to each other and read their books printed in a language of curlycued letters, I sat and read Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout and took my own little bodh gaya pilgrimage. I was quite supremely enlightened by this book, and I believe the fictional town of Crosby, Maine should be visited by persons of devotion, folks like you, for these stories cause awareness and apprehension of the nature of impermanence, otherwise known to us non-saffrons as the difficult splendor of being alive. It is a book about the places where the scars are...
Here's an an amulet I exchange with you from the book. These sentences describe Olive on the day of Christopher and Suzanne's wedding. Christopher is Olive's only son:
Weeping would not have come close to what she felt. She felt fear, sitting out there on her folding chair. Fear that her heart would squeeze shut again, would stop, the way it did once before, a fist punched through her back. And she felt it, too, at the way the bride was smiling up at Christopher, as though she actually knew him. Because did she know what he looked like in first grade when he had a nosebleed in Miss Lampley's class? Did she see him when he was a pale, slightly pudgy child, his skin broken out in hives because he was afraid to take a spelling test? No, what Suzanne was mistaking for knowing someone was knowing sex with that person for a couple of weeks. You never could have told her that, though...