Tampa, FL – I had an epiphany Thursday on the airport runway here: The world gets smaller as we get older.
We should have known better. As we entered the coffee shop for an hour with the weekend papers, we spotted two – yeah, two – ministers.
My sister-in-law, Sarah Wimberley, was grabbing a quick coffee between services at Glenwood Park United Methodist Church. And Duane Stephens, the retired First Presbyterian Church pastor, was gulping his morning joe before attending another area Presbyterian congregation.
Just goes to prove you can’t skip church and get away with it. At least not in your hometown.
The world got smaller Tuesday. I was stuck in the Cincinnati airport after a late Kansas City departure caused me to miss my Chicago connection.
Pat Farrar walked up while I was sitting in the gate area waiting to board a later flight. She’s the Delta flight attendant Kate, the kids and I met in 2003 during our first trip to Sanibel Island, Fla.
Pat and her family were staying at the same place we were, and we enjoyed getting acquainted during the week while our kids played together on the beach.
I connected with Pat again – and wrote about it here – on a 2008 flight to Hawaii. It was fun to exchange greetings and catch up on life last week.
I made it to Chicago Tuesday evening and flew here Wednesday night. The world shrunk again Thursday.
I was consulting for the first time with the Drug-Free America Foundation. The foundation, which recently hired Hartsook Companies to grow its philanthropy, develops global strategies and laws aimed at reducing illegal drug use and addiction.
It was a stimulating day. The high point was lunch with Betty Sembler, the foundation’s founder.
Wouldn’t you know it? Her husband, a one-time U.S. ambassador to Australia and Italy, was born and raised in St. Joseph, Mo., where my dad grew up. What’s more, Melvin Sembler asked his wife to marry him in the Kansas City Plaza Library parking lot, she said.
As the plane taxied toward the runway, the requirements of our shrinking world formed in my mind. They’re the stuff we learned in grade school.
For starters, it really is important to be on our best behavior all the time. We could run into people we know – even a pair of ministers – any time, anywhere.
We should also reconnect with people we met earlier in life when the cosmic tines click and our paths cross again. They link us in often forgotten but important ways to experiences that formed us.
And even as our lives take us to new places, we should remember and revere the spots where we and our loved ones spent time earlier. They define who we are and connect us with those we meet.
As the plane arched toward Atlanta, I closed my eyes and grinned. With two flights and a major airport between here and Kansas City, there was no telling who I’d bump into.
Then, just for kicks, I looked over my shoulder to see if I knew the person sitting behind me.
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