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.

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