Reaching Out

“No one comes into your life unless you reach out to them.”

Joan Chittister, Uncommon Gratitude

I breezed through this sentence on first reading, but the import of it caught up with me a sentence or two later, so I went back to it.  The sentence comes after Chittister describes several characters from her old neighborhood — the woman down the hall with diabetes, the deaf young man down the street, the man who sat on a stool in an alley….  Each is part of her past, but also part of her present, part of her future – part of what makes her what she is.

Some of these people she actually had a direct relationship with, while others were simply regularly observed.  It occurs to me that the “reaching out” noted above can occur in various ways.  Yes, it can occur directly, in the form of communication or interaction, but people we never meet or communicate directly with can also “come into our lives” in various ways – if we let them.

The guy on the street corner with the “will work for food” sign is certainly reaching out, but doesn’t really “come into my life” unless I pause a moment and contemplate him, his presence, his reality, and perhaps smile at him.  The child on the woman’s shoulder, facing me on the airport’s moving sidewalk “comes into my life” without a word and sends the message to slow down a bit and take a deep breath.  I have only “reached out” long enough to lock eyes and receive the message.  And of course there are those folks I will interact and communicate with, presenting ample opportunity to “reach out” and “come into my life.”

All of which I guess begs the questions: Of the people I encounter today, who will I reach out to?  Who will come into my life and become part of my present, past, and future?

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