I travel a fair amount for my day job, and it never ceases to amaze me that there are so many people around.
No, seriously, they’re everywhere.
I mean, they’re in airports, taxis, cars, and trains. They walk along sidewalks, cross streets, take pictures, and generally take up space and breath air.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m used to people. I interact with them in person on a daily basis. I drive with them on the same highway, I work with them in the same office, I see them at the gas station and grocery stores. I even talk with strangers on a semi-regular basis, saying things like, “Thank you”, “Excuse me”, and “Good morning.” Sometimes I feel like a complete extrovert!
And I know that in theory there are a lot of people out there. I see them on TV. I read about them on the Internet. I see huge crowds of them at athletic events, rallies, traffic jams, and other various newsworthy happenings. So I know they’re there. At least, in theory.
This morning as I took a taxi, our driver was easing around a turn, waiting patiently for the pedestrians to get out of the way. Along came a police woman on a Segue, and the taxi driver rolled forward just enough to make the police woman hesitate and look at him, wondering if he was going to plow her over.
She made eye contact with him, and shook her head in rebuke–and must have seen the smile on his face and realized that he’d been teasing her, because she smiled and shook a friendly finger at him. It was just a small thing, but reinforced something I’d been thinking all week.
All of these thousands–millions–of people actually exist and go about their lives completely unaware of me. They have no idea that I’m (I hope) an awesome husband and father. They don’t know that I drive 25-30 minutes to work most days, and that sometimes I work at home. They don’t know that I’m struggling to gain attention to my books, and that I plan to have three more out before long. They don’t know that I agonize over some decisions relating to what kind of hamburger to buy, and how to handle relationships. They don’t know that I want to climb mountains this summer, and can’t wait to get home to my family every time I’m away.
They know none of this. They just go about their lives, unaware of me.
And that’s what’s amazing.
Every one of these people–the taxi driver, the police woman on a Segue, the homeless man sleeping on the park bench under a canvas, the tourist taking a picture of the Capitol, the Congressional staffer, the waitress at Tortilla Coast–everyone of these people has a story that I am completely unaware of.
That’s right. Every single one of them has a story that’s just as important to them as my story is to me. When they burn themselves with a too-hot shower, it hurts them just as much as it hurts me. When they make it across the street without getting hit by a car, they’re just as thrilled as I am when I do the same thing. When they hear about some unrest somewhere in the world, they’re just as disturbed as me. When their hopes fail, they hurt just as much. When stress threatens to overcome them, they need just as much support as me.
It’s crazy. All these people all over the place–all just as human as me, all just as alive as me. Insane.