We’ve all seen those little flashlights that shine out a sharp light beam. These are amazingly strong flashlignts, which transmit a little colored dot on all objects in their path. These laser beams are bright, straight lines which project out seemingly forever. The beams can be moved from side to side or up and down by the humans that operate the laser.
If you please, let me consider everyone’s life a bright laser beam. Consider the earth a vast array of space where literally billions of laser beams are present, yours being just one of these. Sometimes laser beams run closely parallel to each other for an entire lifetime, such as the beams of a Mother and her son, or the beams of a couple who are married for a long time. In the case of estrangement or divorce, the beams run away from each other, sometimes to run parallel at a later time. However, most of the time beams intersect for a brief period, perhaps a day, perhaps an hour, or maybe for just a few seconds, such as when glances are exchanged on a crowded street. The intersection of laser beams is the essence of life. Let me characterize just a few types of intersections.
Frequent but brief intersection: The barista you buy a cup of coffee from every morning becomes a tiny and pleasant part of your day. You greet him warmly and he does the same, yet you are barely acquaintances. However, without his presence on any particular day your life is not exactly complete; a little bit of your daily existence is missing. Your day may have tens if not hundreds of these frequent, periodic encounters. Without them life is very lonely.
The once in a lifetime brief intersection: A few years ago I sat next to a young German physician on an airplane bound for Bombay. He had planned to attend the wedding of a friend of his from medical school, who was getting married in Hyderabad. He had never been to India before and had about a 24 hour layover before he could proceed down to Hyderabad. Our flight landed around midnight in Bombay; not the best time for a young man to be wandering around an airport teeming with shysters and pickpockets. I offered to take him to the home of my Indian host, where he found a comfortable bed and a good meal. The next day we, along with a couple of my Indian friends, toured part of the city with the young physician. He enjoyed the day very much and expressed his gratitude as he boarded his flight for Hyderabad. For he and for me, it was understood that our laser beams would run parallel for only a few hours and that we would never meet again. Yet this was a meaningful experience for both of us. After a couple of emails we lost touch. His beam has transmitted onward and upward to intersect with people and places unknown to me, but important to many who know him.
The infrequent, yet significant intersection: I’ve got a childhood friend living in Escondido, California named Dave. We grew up in Omaha, attended the same college in Iowa, and then went our separate ways. Our parents still correspond with one another. Since graduating from college I’ve seen Dave maybe 4 times. Decades often pass between meetings and we seldom phone or text one another; yet I absolutely know he is always there for me. If I had an emergency I could call Dave in California and he would board the next plane for Minneapolis and the same is true for me. When Dave and I get together it is if we were never apart. We can almost finish each others sentences. This is a precious relationship. Many people I know have friends like Dave.
Laser beams are incredible because they can connect anyone from anywhere at any time. It’s how a girl from India meets the love of her life from North Dakota. Its how a man who loses his wife gains a “son” who was her physician. Its how a foreign exchange student bonds with her host Mother as if they were Mother and child. Its how a young woman from the New Jersey moves from Cleveland to Chicago and meets an older man whom she will consider a “Father” for the rest of her life.
Look at your own laser beam; I’ll bet there are some incredible stories you can tell!