Before opening the taxi door I glance back over my shoulder, looking for traffic or motorcycles coming out of nowhere. As soon as I step out I’m engulfed in the smells of the city—the smell of fresh dough from a nearby pizza shop mixed with the smell of rotting trash in the gutter. But mostly the smell and taste of smog—a million cars, jeepneys, and tricycles transporting countless human beings across the 11th largest city in the world.
As soon as the door closes, he’s gone. I sat beside him for 2 hours. We talked about everything from marriage to religion. And now, realistically I’ll never see him again. Tonight he’ll drop off his last passenger and go home to his family. He’ll eat, he’ll rest, he’ll go to bed; sometime in the future he’ll breathe his last and pass into eternity. We just shared a tiny sliver of our total time on planet earth, and that’s all the contact we’ll ever have.
I walk into a Jolibees and order a burger, fries, and a drink for $1.50. The girl who politely takes my order also has her own life, her own fears, memories, and dreams. She will also die someday and pass into eternity. So also the worker who cooked my burger, the girl who fills my drink, and the young man who hands me the tray, or the family seated next to my table, and every person I pass on my way out the door. On an average day I probably see 5-10 thousand human beings. I probably have conversations with less than 1% of them.
But how could I? How could anybody? There are just too many people. There isn’t enough time to speak with everyone; say nothing of establishing relationships. By default, we all make choices with our time, which means we’re choosing who to build a relationship with—even who we’ll share the gospel with. These reflections take me deeper:
- I must never forget that they are all people. Not traffic, not a long line, not a distracted checkout clerk; they’re people. And people not only with a life in the present but also an eternity at stake. Every person I see will go somewhere when they die. That awareness alone ought to compel compassion for their souls.
- Eternity ought to shape my priorities. People are more important than stuff, always, without exception. Time, likewise is precious; time with people even more so. Whether I catch the next season of –––––– won’t make any difference in eternity; whether I give that man the gospel will.
- I have no idea of all the things God is doing. The task is endless, but there are also the joyful, unexpected surprises. Like the tract handed to a tricycle driver and forgotten until he recognizes me and approaches to say that he found assurance his sins were forgiven. Or the dear Filipina lady faithfully handing out tracts to everyone on a jeepney. Or the born-again believers that board a bus and start preaching the gospel. Yes, there are endless needs, but God loves every individual far more deeply than I can fathom. God is doing great things all around us all the time—things we often have no idea about.
One way to view life is as a series of intersections. Our paths run in a million directions. Every day your line intersects with others, sometimes for a brief second passing on a sidewalk, sometimes for hours. Occasionally two lines run parallel for years in a family—even a lifetime. Each intersection represents a precious opportunity. I can’t reach the whole world. I’m simply responsible to do as much as I can with each opportunity God gives. The longer the intersection of my life with someone else’s, the greater my responsibility in that relationship.
When you finally breathe your last, you will have had a certain number of interactions with other human beings. What influence will you leave on the lives of those you touch?