Learning with Landon – Authors of our Narratives

Pilgrimage - The Sacred Art - wanna travel into yourself?
Pilgrimage – The Sacred Art – wanna travel into yourself?

I stopped in front of a lovely gentrified downtown building just before 9:00 am. A very attractive and somewhat harried guy in his 20s showed up and put some luggage in the car.

“I gotta make a couple of stops, ok?”  “Sure.”

I thought he meant that we were going to stop somewhere in route along his destination. Instead, he went across the street to get something and then returned to the building, perhaps to lock up. I’m not sure.

I won’t forget this moment. He sat down with a shoebox by his side. Brown, maybe black, dress shoes – not in his suitcase, Separate, last minute packing decision maybe. ‘Something about taking a business trip to Tennessee.

And off we went. “Headed to West Chester?” He replied yes in so many words. He was meeting up with his boss there and then they were headed off together for their trip.

Landon is the kinda guy I like to get to know. He’s a true Minnesotan:  kind, respectful, gentle on the eyes, ears, heart, and mind. I felt comfortable speaking with him from the time we got out of downtown and headed north on I-75. He’s the sort of person I truly enjoy traveling with as an Uber partner.

Lifehack - Meaningful conversations
Grab a “lifehack” on creating more meaningful conversations

How does a chat become a conversation? I don’t know. I think it happens when two or more people willingly open up and try to learn from one another. It takes caring and connecting. Gabe Nies coaches people to, among other things,

  • Be Real
  • Meet People Where They Are
  • Take People on a Journey
  • Create Transparency and Be Clear

Uber may be perfect for such conversational pilgrimages if the people traveling with one another are attentive to what’s really taking place in the car.


The trip allows people to get real while they are traveling. Most of the time, the application lets both people know where they clearly are headed and when they are going to get there. It’s just a matter of connecting and creating a relationship, even if it’s only for a few minutes. That’s a different sort of pilgrimage.

I’d add one other suggestion about meaningful conversations – do you desire true connections between yourself and your neighbor? Well then – let God get into the center of your heart and words, however you might understand such spiritual openness. Give life a chance to provide learning that will last well after the fare has been concluded and Uber shares your feedback with each other. Be human, show up, take risks, come into the arena of saying something without your smart phone.

Landon was gracious enough to share some of his story with me. He’s got alot going on – first job after college, long distance relationship with his girlfriend, spiritual and professional inquiries, personal and external expectations. I truly was impressed with the balancing act he’s striving to accomplish. And, I pondered, what wisdom, if any, might I offer him. Maybe it was enough to listen with my heart as well as with my ears. I’m not good at just listening. I need to work on that skill. Instead, I inquired as to whether or not some of the expectations he was wrestling with were more of his own making and choices.


I suggested that he check in with what he believes his life’s purpose, goals, and objectives. He seemed to welcome that advice. Landon really seemed interested in sharing a meaningful conversation. I appreciated that trait in him. I’m sure his close friends and family members do. Integrity and being integrated in mind, body, and soul receive a whole lot of street cred from me. These virtues go far with almost anyone.

It probably was about halfway into the trip that Landon indicated that he had been a English Literature major in college.

Story of My Life - Narrative analysis
Read about composing you life’s narrative.

“Landon, What would it be like for you to become the author of your narrative?” I asked. I gazed at him in the rear view mirror when I said it.  Each and every one of us has an important say in what we do, who we are, how we shall be human. That’s what I heard us talk about anyway. The word “control” came up. I felt uncomfortable with that word. I’m not sure that Landon felt the same way. That’s ok. Our experiences and expectations differ from one another. It’s a topic I’d like to converse with him more about should I ever have the opportunity.

Julie Beck writes: In the realm of narrative psychology, a person’s life story is not a Wikipedia biography of the facts and events of a life, but rather the way a person integrates those facts and events internally—picks them apart and weaves them back together to make meaning.” (Beck, August 2015, para. 6).

I think it’s helpful to craft and edit our narratives when we open ourselves up to someone we trust and are willing to travel along with their ideas, their stories, and their  insights into who we are. I don’t suggest we should engage in such conversations with just anyone. I do think our soulful intuition invites us to seek out such connections. Again, Uber or some other delivery system with short-term time allotments and longer-term implications may be just the sort of sacred space for such sharing of narratives.

I dropped Landon off at a Starbucks.  I asked him for his business card because I knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to blog about our 25 minute pilgrimage. He graciously gave me one. There’s that better than average Midwest guy thing again. I helped him gather up his luggage and shoe box. The shoes kinda jostled around and fell out of the box. Landon tidly put them back in and closed the lid.

It seems only appropriate in a metaphorical way that Landon is carrying a lot of stuff in between destinations. I hope those shoes are comfortable. I pray he’ll, with God’s help, keep traveling graciously in an integrated manner.

Landon PetersonLandon and I are now “friends.” Facebook makes it so, at least virtually. I’m confident he’s going to be well, succeed, go places, wholeheartedly. Why? Well maybe it’s because he’s got the Minnesota Nice thing going for him. Maybe it’s because he is young, white, male, good looking, smart, and so on. He does possess those characteristics. And, what I learned from him and what I wish to share with you is: Take time to be a pilgrim, even if it’s only for a 25 minute trip from Point A to Point B. Be willing to (re)find the pen(s) that you are using to write your personal narrative. Open up, when it seems right (write). Let God (The Divine, Essence, Yahweh, Allah, The Dao) get smack dab in the center of your realness, your journey, and your vulnerabilities.

Thanks for the ride Landon, hope to converse with you more when our paths next intersect.

Ride On.


Ty’s Gift of Trust

Newtown, OH ancient Native American Burial Mound
Newtown, OH ancient Native American Burial Mound

I don’t think of my car as a thin space. That doesn’t mean that it can’t become one.

The ride started around sunrise.  7:40 AM, give or take a couple of minutes. The eastern horizon was painted with red and purple tones. The last few autumn daybreakings here have been beautiful.

His name was Ty.  I picked him up downtown in front of a condo. high rise.  I didn’t really look at his destination. It didn’t really mean that much to me as it was the morning initial departure.

Ty is a handsome African American man. I’d guess he is in mid-late 20s. He seemed to be still waking up. He was holding what I thought was a large styrofoam cup of coffee. I got the impression if may have been a long night.  He sort of settled into the leather car seat without too many cares in the world.

I turned the corner and started listening to Google Navigation for directions. We turned on one of the streets that’s being re-worked. I made note of the fact that the road would make it hard for him to drink his coffee.

“It’s only water; so, it’s not a big deal.”  Cool. Then, about a minute later.

“We’re going out the Columbia Parkway.”

“Ok, it’ll be cool to drive against the flow for a change.”  I made mention of a quirky turn command that the app. told me to take.  And off on the parkway we went.

I don’t remember how the conversation got started from there on. I wish I could remember. I learned some things about him. He is from Columbus, Ohio. He helps out with coaching football at one of the local high schools. He learned some things about me. I’m an Episcopal priest. I live on CIncinnati’s west-side, not too far from the school where he coaches.

I asked him a random question about 5 minutes into the ride.

“What more important at the high school football level: talent, or chemistry?”

“You need both!  Guys have to trust their coaches and one another. You got to have guys who can play though. It’s different in basketball. You just need talent.”

We carried on that thread for awhile.

Joe Maddon Photo
Joe Maddon and his magic with team chemistry

“I played baseball in high school.” I remarked. “Chemistry was super huge!” You could win if you had guys who hit .280 and were able to field their position as long as the team’s chemistry was set.”  We had a couple of talented guys in the lineup that weren’t playing for just themselves but for the team….it was magic.”

That point led us to a conversation about the Chicago Cubs and Joe Maddon’s ability to create chemistry as opposed to the lack of chemistry on the Angels of Anaheim with Mike Scioscia and Bryan Price (whose name we both couldn’t remember) and the Cincinnati Reds. I’m an Angels fan. Ty seemingly roots for the Reds.

This may be one of the most boring blog posts you’ve ever read.  I wonder if anyone will even read this far it.  I hope so….

The conversation pivoted again — back to an earlier theme.

Tell me about your church.”

It’s challenging you know.  “It’s the West-side.” Change doesn’t happen easily there.  We both kind of chuckled.

Ty and I are both from somewhere else. We’re strangers to the neighborhood. Neither or us have lived there for generations. I jokingly said I haven’t lived anywhere for more than 85 months. Some families in Westwood, Cheviot, Delhi, and elsewhere around Cincinnati’s West-side have been in the same house for 85 years.

“Change is hard. It takes trust, faith, perseverance.” I took a closer look at Ty. He had a thin moustache. He was wearing a blue fleece with some kinda logo on it. Well put together, calm. confident.

“Yeah, and courage, too.” I replied

Change is hard. That’s about the time we turned onto Highway 32 toward Newtown.

“I’ve never been out here before.”

“Yeah, I sell medical supplies. I spend half my time traveling to clients in Los Angeles.” You know what, why don’t you just drop me off at the gas station at the corner. I walked from there a couple of mornings ago. It was calming.”

“Yea, the mornings have been beautiful this week. Ok. What’s going on with the traffic on this road?”

“There’s a school and parents are dropping their kids off.”

I didn’t see the school or the children.   I did locate the gas station and pulled into the parking lot.

“I enjoyed our conversation this morning James.”

“Me too, Ty. Maybe I’ll take a quick drive around downtown Newtown.”

He got out of the car. I turned into traffic and headed toward Milford.

I wound up taking an extended drive around Cincinnati’s outskirts rather than downtown Newtown.  That excursion began after I gave Ty five stars and returned to the Uber Partner app. That would have been fine except that Ty’s Trip didn’t show up in my trip history or on partners webpage. It still isn’t there. As far as Uber is concerned, my early morning sojourn with Ty never happened.

Now, it’s probably just a system malfunction, right? My phone didn’t somehow connect with the Uber cloud, or the Ohio network. Yea, and there are some historic Native American burial grounds in Newtown. I’m truly in the process of contemplating a change in my vocational path. It was sunrise in autumn. The cynical fact is that I’m probably getting way too new age and old Celtic Spiritually focused for my own good. And, these moments feel very thin to me as I jot them down here. What does a conversation about undocumented Uber trips, team chemistry, established neighborhoods, seasonal and vocational transformations, and sunrise have in common?

Maybe it’s all bullshit. Maybe it’s not. For the record, I can’t find any business information for a medical supplies company in Newtown. I did feel like I was in a “New Town” though. Maybe I was dreaming. Maybe Ty wasn’t standing on the corner of Broadway and 4th Street. I think he was. I think I was supposed to pick him up too.

Trust Comical Poster
Trust is hard.

Change is hard. It takes trust.  – I remember Ty saying those words like he said them to me two seconds ago.

Every now and then, in my life, I have a moment that feels more important than the millions of moments around it. Prior to picking up Ty, I spent some silents moments in prayer.  My morning mediation today focused on the gift of humility. Br. Jonathan Maury of the Society of St. John the Evangelist writes:

“The humility of which Jesus speaks, and which he models, is that of “down to earth-ness”, of living with a conscious connection to the humus from which God fashioned humanity.  … We are invited to embrace the humility of Christ, to ask for the gifts of faith, hope, and charity of which we truly have need this day and with which our God so lovingly desires to shower us.” (Br. Jonathan Maury, True Humility, Oct. 29, 2011, para. 5, 6)

Trust requires humility, surrender, open-heartedness. Perhaps we need to hear such wisdom from a stranger first thing in the morning. My ego-voice often speaks more loudly than my soul-voice. System failure or not. Thin space or not. I believe God’s voice spoke to me in a precious manner this morning.

I’m trusting that I’m not going crazy and that Ty and I really did enjoy a pleasant and unpredictably thin conversation today. Right now, I feel particularly beloved.

Ride On.