Strangers

I’ve discovered that one of my favourite things about travelling, and particularly by public transport, is the strangers that you get to meet.

Firstly there was the lovely lady that I met in the departures lounge of Aberdeen airport. Just as happened last year, I was reading my bible to to help with the last minute nerves a little, and then an older lady sat next to me, struck up a conversation and it turned out that she was a Christian too. She was headed to Gatwick to see her daughter and it was really comforting to to be able to talk to someone while we both waited on our planes.

On my flight to San Francisco I was sat next to a man from India. He had already been travelling for 24 hours having had to leave his home in India at 4am to catch his flight to Heathrow. He was headed to the city to work, something to do with computers. He had never been to the states before and was full of questions which I hope I answered sufficiently.

I had been looking forward to something of a quiet journey from San Francisco to Santa Clara, some time to reflect and process, but it wasn’t to be. Instead I met Jonathan who was headed to a job interview. He was very chatty. That much conversation would be so totally socially unacceptable in the UK! But he was friendly and enthusiastic and told me all kinds of things about the games design job he was applying for. Quite a character.

I really enjoyed my Amtrak experience and thankfully I had none of the problems I had been warned to expect. There I met a lady called Rebecca who was a bit of an old pro on Amtrak and Greyhound and she kept me right/gave me a few tips for my onward journey. She never really said what she did, only that she traveled a lot. She was carrying a guitar and sensibly brought a pillow so she could get some sleep.

At the Greyhound station in LA I met a young guy, 18 or 19, who was quite clearly high. We got to talking about college somehow and he told me he went to Santa Barbara City College. He had decided to go there because in Santa Barbara County marijuana has been legalised for medical use. So he’d managed to get himself diagnosed with glaucoma and could now smoke all the pot he wanted. Well, that’s one way to choose your college!

On the Greyhound to Porterville I first sat next to Amy. She had had quite a difficult day and night with broken down buses and missed connections as she tried to get home from college to visit her mom for a few days as a surprise! Her mom had no idea she was coming and Amy let a call from her go to voicemail so that she would think she was a work. Other than seeing her mom, Amy was desperate for In’n’Out (the world’s best fast food for those of you who haven’t experienced the joy) which she’s not had in her year away at college (it’s a California thing). On the second leg of that journey I sat next to a very lovely older lady whose name I never caught but I remember that she took a phone call from her son and one of her grandchildren was ill so when she finished the call she sat and prayed. Later in the journey she insisted on giving me a bottle of ice cold water and candy from her well stocked cooler bag. Her kindness was beautiful – we hadn’t really spoken but I’d told her I was travelling alone and she really just wanted to look after me. It was simple but perfect.

Another person I/we met, who will forever be something of a legend in our family, was the gentleman on an LA street corner who directed us to the most luxurious and delicious breakfast we had ever had. We came out of the subway station in downtown LA and were stood looking at our map trying to figure out where we should head first. He was just casually standing next to us and asked what we were looking for. We explained we just wanted somewhere to get breakfast first and after deliberating, because apparently they don’t really do breakfast in downtown LA, he suggested a place only a couple blocks down called Bottega Louie. We had no idea what we were in for but the macaroon towers in the windows and the 40ft cake and pastry counter were a pretty big indication as we walked through the door. The epitome of understated opulence.

Speaking to strangers is something quite alien to those of us indoctrinated in the Great British Reserve. It’s just not done here. But I admire and love the openness that I have experienced in the American people. Strangers needn’t be strangers for long.

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How much are you worth?

A friend of mine was having some relationship issues this week but eventually I managed to figure out the actual root of the problem. Her instinct was to bail as soon as there was any attachment forming on her side because she didn’t think the guy could care about her enough to stick around for a significant amount of time and not break her heart. (Don’t you just love High School romance dramas?) She doesn’t consider herself  worthy of his, or anyone elses,  attention or affection. Though constantly longing for it, she doesn’t think she’ll ever be good enough for it.

The whole thing made me think.

“For God so loved the world that he sent his only son, that whoever should believe in him shall not perish, but have eternal life” John 3:16

We may be sinful creatures, full of destruction and evil, but we are worth so much to God. So much, that he gave his only son to save our lives. We are precious to him. We are valuable to him. There is nothing he hasn’t given for us.

I wonder if you honestly believe that you’re worth that. I wonder if, in your hearts of hearts, you really think you are that valuable. Because you are. No matter what has happened in the past or will happen in the future, you are worth the death of his only son to God.

I have difficulty believing that times. Sometimes I look at myself and think that there’s no way God could love me, stupid, scared, sinful me, like that. But he does. And realising that makes all the difference to every aspect of life – I don’t have to worry about what people think of me any more, I don’t have to seek people’s approval continually, I don’t have to gain my self-esteem or confidence from the attention of others. What is any of that when compared with the love of the creator and sustainer of the universe?!

You, me, all of us, are worth more than we can ever imagine.

Who are you?

How do we ever know who a person truly is? Can we?

Everyone acts differently in different situation with different people present. We react differently in certain situation, are more comfortable in some than in others. 

But how do we know if the person that we see is the genuine article?

It’s trust really, isn’t it? We trust that the person we see is the real deal, and usually we accept it without question, especially when we only ever see them in one kind of situation. But what about when we get a glimpse into their lives at another time, in another place, with another group of people, and the person that we see there isn’t who we expected to? Do we simply accept that to be a part of their character? Do we question it and doubt that we ever really knew them at all? Do we ignore it and hope life continues as before?

I’ll admit to having multiple lives. They’re not massively different but some would probably be shocked to hear the cheek I give my parents; my family probably find most of the stuff I write here completely alien andwonder where it comes from; my church friends would probably be apalled at the gossiping I get caught up in at school; my friends would probably find the rachael who mucks about with 7 year olds as though one of them really wierd. I’m a different person at home, in school and at church. But which one’s the real me? Are each of these “personalities” what I think the people around me want to see? Probably. I’d like to think I’m a genuine and honest person but I know there are parts of my personality which I hide from parts of my life. I want to be the same everywhere for everyone, I want to be who I am all the time but life’s just not that simple. More than anything I want to be who God wants me to be, created me to be, every second of every hour of everyday.

I love my friends. Sometimes the glimpses into the parts of their lives I’m not a part of shock me. I still love them. It’s not always easy but I remember that God loves them at all times, whoever they choose to be that day. 

My prayer is that whichever personality prevails, God shines through above all else. That I remain faithful to Him and put Him before the opinion of any human being. And that I will grow to be who He created me to be.

Who do you choose to be today?