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'n lewe wat IETS BETEKEN | 14/04/2021

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What Interesting People in Your Life are You Ignoring?

What Interesting People in Your Life are You Ignoring?



I recently traveled to Israel and Turkey. I was away for two weeks and saw many famous things: the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, the Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee, the Wailing Wall. But what I’ve thought about most since returning from the trip is not these sites, each incredible in their beauty and in their stories, but a conversation I had with the guy next me on the plane from New York to Jerusalem.

I never talk to people on planes if I can help it. I like to read and be myself and ignore the fact we are sharing an armrest. But this is harder to do on ten-hour flights and when I made a comment to my seat mate before I had even buckled my seatbelt about our misfortune of being on the very last row of the plane, I knew I had opened the jar of potentially a lot of conversation. In this case, I’m glad I did.

Besides the fact my seat buddy was Jewish, about 20 years old, and had just gotten out the Israeli army, we had a lot in common. Our fathers, we discovered, are in the same line of work. Sort of. His dad is a rabbi in Jerusalem and an author of theological literature. My dad is a pastor and also an author on religious matters. We both had experienced doubts and questions about our faiths growing up. His had led him down a path of appreciation but non-belief. Mine had, by a miracle, led me to more of an assurance in my Christianity. We had both traveled a little and wanted to more.

We like reading and learning and our families.

The conversation went on for hours. I had made all of these plans for my ten-hour journey. I was going to write some blog posts and do some freelance work and read a novel. None of it happened. My plans were disrupted by getting to know another person.

Somewhere in the middle of our flight, my friend (he felt like a friend at this point) said that before I had started talking to him about our last-row woes, he was about to start a movie on his laptop and put in his headphones. He said he was so glad he didn’t. We always have a choice, he continued, to either look up and talk to the person next to us and risk the vulnerability, or we can keep looking down and miss out on a bit of richness life was trying to offer us. I think he was very wise for a young person, and very right.

Because I got to know this local Israeli a little, I was able to see my trip through a slightly broader lens. I appreciated things more. I didn’t see the people there as “us” and “them” like it can be so easy to do when touring outside your own country’s walls.

We had found common ground in the air, and my trip was enriched because of it.

I would have missed this if I had been my typical, anti-social self on that flight.

I wonder how many interesting people we’ve missed out on getting to know because it was easier to not say hi, safer. I wonder what people are in our lives now, waiting to be acknowledged, waiting to broaden our perspectives.


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