Standing in line at the grocery store, Target, hardware store, Macy’s or any other place can often present challenges. Sometimes if we’re in a hurry it seems that the person in front needs a price check or got the wrong size or wants another color of the same item or forgot one more item in the farthest aisle from the checkout lane.
So we wait.
And while we wait, we deal with mounting impatience and frustration when we just want to get on with our day. Why did I get stuck in this line with these people? Why did I have to show up at the exact same moment?
Like it or not, we’re sharing space with others in the world.
And, yes, sharing space can be aggravating. But sharing space can also offer an opportunity to pray for those around us.
Try offering a general thought or blessing such as “God come to _________________ [this woman, this man, this child],” or “Let ________________ [him or her] know the reality of your presence,” or “Help this mother have patience with her child while she waits.” The simple act of bringing that person to mind, heart, and spirit as we stand in line and share space can bring us new joy or offer perspective to the situation.
Sharing Empathetic SpaceRecently, I participated in a yoga class held at the Indianapolis Museum of Art on Saturday morning before the museum opened. It’s one of my favorite things to do. As I waited for the guide to take me to the third floor gallery where the class was held, my mat slung over my shoulder, I shared space with a woman standing next to me. She started talking to me. A retired breast surgeon, she was dealing with the challenge of her children living in two faraway places: Florida and Texas. She was debating whether to move closer to one or the other of them. I listened, sharing my story of children who live far away. We shared empathetic space as we waited for class to begin.
Sharing Soothing SpaceEvery week when I volunteer at Indiana University Hospital North, I share space with anxious families who are waiting until their loved one returns from surgery. As I wait with them, I listen and reflect their concerns, offering compassion to soothe their anxiety. Walking with them down the hall the final time for a reunion with the patient ends our moments of shared space.
Sharing Heart SpaceSharing space is about sharing my heart—opening my heart through God’s heart. What an honor each day to be given the opportunity to share space with another.
Recently, I shared space in a funeral home. I stood in line to pay respects to a family whose 20-year-old son died suddenly. I started talking to the woman in front of me. A winding line of college students, who wore perplexed and confused expressions, surrounded us. The woman explained a few details of the man’s death. “My son was one of his best friends since elementary school,” she added. With each word she said, my heart expanded to envelop her and all others in the crowded setting. Sharing space in this encounter reached the deepest places of my heart as I mourned with her and shared a common bond of shock and sorrow.
Sharing space with others can open the heart in unexpected ways – even those moments that begin with frustration can end with concern and care.
For your reflection:
- What places do you share with others?
- What happens during those long or short moments?
- How do others share space with you?
Prayer: God, we share space with many throughout our days. Sometimes we engage in dialogue with people; other times our interaction is silent communion. Open our hearts deeper and deeper to receive your great love, so we can pour out this love with listening, attention, and empathy for those with whom we share space. Amen.