How comfortable are you right now? Are you sitting down in a comfy chair with a cup of hot coffee in your hand? If you get chilly, is there a cozy sweater or afghan nearby to wrap around your shoulders? Some people may agree that life is pretty good when we are within our comfort zones. Merriam-Webster defines comfort zone as “the level at which one functions with ease and familiarity.”
Alas, not all of life can be spent in the safe boundaries of our comfort zones. Today I reflect one such moment. The lyrics of a song keep running through my head as I write this…Just a small town girl, living in a lonely world, she took the midnight train going anywhere (Journey, Escape album, 1981). My family often says I’m a little too dramatic, so I must disclose the facts: I AM from a small town and I DID take a commuter train, followed by a subway train, some more subway trains and one last commuter train on Saturday. The Uber receipt reminds me that we reached our hotel at a modest 11:34 PM, so there really was not any midnight train involved here, friends! But, my early-bird version of the tale contains some truths I want to share with you…
Even total strangers will work together to solve a common problem. Subway doors won’t close? Everyone steps back. Someone with a stroller trying to get on/off the train? People move out of the way or even grab the front of the stroller to assist the parent. When it’s standing-room only, people make sure that everyone has a spot to hold on those common metal poles. Someone’s lost? I witnessed many people on Saturday offering advice to others regarding taking the R train or the 1 train, etc. When asked, people step up.
It’s much easier to have conversations when there’s a safe distance between us. I sought respite in the subway advertisements lining the trains on Saturday because I was afraid if I looked anyone straight in the eyes in such proximity, I’d creep them out. We were too close for comfort! I whispered a few things to my family members who also were riding, but for the most part, I kept surprisingly quiet for once. I also confirmed my theory that quiet smiles still work everywhere.
There’s evidence of beauty EVERYWHERE if we are willing to recognize it. By the last few hours of my family’s day in the big city, I was getting tired and hungry and missing the quiet comforts of home. It was only going to be a five-minute wait or so for the next train downtown, and I was resolved to be patient. I did just fine until my husband and daughter asked me, “Did you just see that rat down there along the edge?” Fortunately, I had NOT seen the rat, but I became increasingly aware of the noise and the crowds and the various smells…it was like I was enmeshed in sensory overload and starting to quietly freak out inside when…all…of…a…sudden, the most hauntingly beautiful cello music from one floor above us floated down and surrounded me in serenity. I had walked by the solitary cello player just minutes before, wishing we could stop and listen to him and now the gift of that artist was bestowed on me. I strained to listen and for a few moments blocked out everything else just to hear a few glorious notes. What a gift.
We live our lives both within and outside of our comfort zones. That’s just reality. How thankful I am, especially during this season of Easter, to remember that the One who loves us accompanies us on all our journeys. Alleluia!