Airports are the best places to people watch.
A little boy, around age 2, is coloring next to me with his mother, happily enjoying the piano music being played in the plaza. Some travelers walk quickly, with a purpose, others stride with a relaxed jaunt. A man enjoys sushi alone, dressed in business clothes. A college student carries an oversized backpack with a cell phone in one hand and frozen yogurt in the other. Many do not walk on ground, but on moving platforms.
Shifting walkways, food purchases, take offs, journeys between a string of destinations. As human beings, we are constantly in motion.
The past two weeks have been a blur of late nights and longer days. Since Mother’s Day (eight days ago), I have studied for and taken a Buddhism final, finalized a creative writing portfolio, written too many letters to count, celebrated the end of the year with sleepovers, helped with a campus-wide donation, packed and moved all of my belongings with my dear roommate (I would not have survived this end of the year without her!), and finally, landed at the airport.
How does it all get done? the question remains in my mind as I look back and marvel at all the movement between places and states of mind this week. In many senses, the end has been exhausting. I have learned that I require introvert time that is difficult to find between saying goodbye and taking care of life’s necessities. There is little space to just be amidst the transitional moments.
“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.” – Max Ehrmann, Desiderata
Dear silence, you are the soothing water to my wounds. You alone restore my soul to stillness. How precious, how spacious you are.
As I have volunteered with a donation drive called Ditch ‘n Dash, I have felt a clamoring noise crowding out silence. With the donation drive, we collect items during move-out period for charities in the local Charlotte area. On the day that most underclassmen moved out following exams, I was simply overwhelmed. There were five sofas in one dorm lobby alone – and mountains of clothing piled in our collection house. Tons – literally, thousands of pounds – of stuff came in. We were given sling shots, brand new clothing, costumes, mattress toppers, wine glasses, clown noses – you name it. Where does all the stuff come from? I would have pulled my hair out if my amazing teammates had not kept me laughing and inspired to keep going.
As I looked around at the massive pile of stuff this morning, I realized the donations had mounted within a period of hours. Many people left campus so quickly, they did not have time to pack their belongings or store them for the summer. They were moving too fast to sell the big screen television or physics textbook. I realized that as young adults, our perpetual motion affects our consumption habits. When we constantly transition between places and events, we consume items as hastily as we leave them behind. Things are thrown away and we move on to consume elsewhere.
Why do I consume? It makes me feel secure. The heavier my carry-on bag, the more I know I can use in case I get hungry or bored or lonely. It also comforts me to think I will never go without infinite possibility of clothing options depending on my mood and the weather. I think that I have a greater “freedom” to choose if I have abundant options. It is supposed to make us happier, right?
As I have recently learned, material prosperity is not as freeing as it appears. My inner consumer makes me get up in the morning anxious about forgetting my mother’s towel before I leave campus. She keeps me moving between aisles to find the best deal. She forces me to ruminate over choices, brood over the best way to store as much as I can. Materialism fills the space around me with things, and not much space for silence.
My move-out surroundings have had an unsettling effect on my spirit. Surrounded by tons of ditched and dashed items, I could not feel centered. I could not hear the voice of God speaking out of silence. It seems that silence is not just about a lack of auditory sounds – it also translates to the material realm. The Spirit guides me to simplify my material life, one moment of stillness at a time.
“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
In moments of quiet (mainly during nap times), God has given me renewed perspective. From a broader lens, we must look like frenetic ants dashing between crumbs on a picnic blanket. We dash around the checkered blanket without seeing the feast of Love before us. I felt most connected to this feast over the past week when I sat painting for two hours in my lounge the night before exams ended. I felt my whole body filled with creativity as my hands were caked with mud and paint and markers. I could be still and be in motion at the same time, resting in God’s presence.
El Salvador showed me that the moments of deepest joy and gratitude happen when we are simply present to God, to ourselves, to one another. We do not need a powerpoint to have a life-changing meeting. We do not need cell phones or e-mails to feel connected. We need eye contact, slow meals, and silent prayer. We need to be still within if we are to act out of God’s love.
“In God, we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)
Reflecting on this past week of motion, I see that God has sustained me when I ran out of strength days ago. God has led me to friends who speak wisdom into my life: slow down, eat ice cream for awhile, or let’s build a fort! God has given me laughter when I felt everything had gone wrong. And most of all, God has given me strength to keep moving forward with friends by my side.
Over the past few weeks, my brothers and sisters in Christ at Davidson have shown me the resilience that comes from believing in God. No matter how many mismatched pairs of shoes or challenging exam questions are thrown at you, Christ’s Light protects the heart with a supreme peace. We do not need to cling to as many items or awards when we know God provides our worth. Knowing we are unconditionally loved, Christ lifts us into true freedom.
Contrary to cultural belief, freedom is not the ability to choose between a dozen dress combinations – it is knowing nothing can take you from the true wellspring of life. Freedom is not just about your autonomy or independence, but about your ability to trust and surrender to a Higher Power acting in community around you. Freedom is the ability to ask for help, give when you feel you have nothing left, and know that it all will be okay.
To all the travelers running in the airport, I hope they find rest when they meet their gates. It is an unpredictable journey ahead of us all. And as is often mentioned, it is not about getting the destination right always. Perhaps the journey is just about how deeply we can laugh in our bellies when we trip on our shoelaces or run out of gas. Or how we find inner stillness when the world clamors for our attention. It is about how we let go, surrender, and trust love to lead us forward.
Praise be to God for this amazing ending of a year – and now it is time to rest! Peaceful travels to all my friends moving across the globe.
May the God of Love guide you Home.