Every time I travel, I collect a few people. It’s not that I don’t have collections de objects to which I am always looking to add while traveling; it’s just that I prefer to collect human beings. I just can’t help it.
This past week I went to Chicago for Book Expo America, the nation’s largest event for the publishing industry. I had no clue, really, as to whom I might meet (as that is never, ever planned), what I might experience, or what I might learn in the three-day pre-Expo seminar in which I enrolled. I only knew that I would inevitably wind up adding some people to my collection.
And did I ever!
It started by traveling with a neighbor I had just met two weeks earlier; we wound up flying together, rooming together, eating together, and learning together. Talk about spinning someone into your web! Going from complete strangers to bunkmates in two weeks is cardio-spinning! It progressed when the seminar organizer solicited my evaluation at the conclusion of day two. When I bravely asserted that there were some things about the seminar that turned me off, he jumped down my throat. (Seems he didn’t really want an honest evaluation, after all.) A fellow presenter overheard the conversation—he, too, ate my lunch. These two would, then, never be added to my collection. They had self-interest at heart, which is always nearly immediately discernible to one filled with the Spirit. We can detect self-serving folks very quickly, can’t we?
But then I found a gentler soul. He understood where I was coming from, and was eager to not only agree with my assessment, but to add his comments as well. It wasn’t because we saw eye-to-eye that I would add him to my collection; it was because his motives were pure. He desired to be of service—as he should have been as one of the main presenters—in an honest, humble, gracious way. With my best interests at heart rather than his own.
The week would progress in much the same way. I would be attracted not to the mind of another presenter or to a fellow attendee. I found myself, as always, attracted to excellent character. To integrity. It’s easy to spot. And it almost always happens without planning. People just come into my life.
It is a phenomenon known to many of us who are open to the spiritual Force around us. And it is because we believe that events, circumstances, and people who enter our lives are not put there coincidentally. Or accidentally. We believe that every major event, every major circumstance, and every person who has made significant contact is there for a reason.
That reason may not necessarily be discernible at the time. But with hindsight—sometimes many years later—we can usually figure the puzzle out. We understand why that person was brought into our lives, why that lesson needed to be learned during that season, or why that safety net was provided just in the nick of time. Or perhaps someone needed me. Perhaps I needed to bestow an act of mercy, or provide a helping hand to someone else.
As we have re-located around this country four times within the past six years, we have been placed in homes, certainly. But more significantly, we have been placed into people’s lives. And they into ours. I often wonder why I was drawn to purchase one house over another. And I have quietly observed over the years that it rarely had anything to do with just the house. I have concluded instead that there was a powerful spiritual Force at work steering me in one direction over another. That I was to be placed into that house because my next-door neighbor would need me to provide meals during cancer treatment, that the widow down the street would need my husband to shovel out her driveway, or that the mother with toddlers would desperately need my daughter to watch them so she could get something done. And I needed them! Like the time during one weekday morning when the shelves in my armoire collapsed—along with hundreds of pounds of electronics and stereo equipment—leaving me to hold it up while my son ran next-door to grab Dick, my retired handyman neighbor. He quickly and cheerfully rescued me. Yes…I have collected people with each and every move, and while I spun them into my web, they spun me into theirs.
I know, too, as I prepare to travel, that at least one person will be spun into my web. A trip to Sydney last year spun a lovely couple from Mexico (of all places!); a trip to Marco Island spun another from Orlando; one to a seminar just an hour from home spun two more who have become mastermind partners; a trip to Barcelona spun a new friend in Connecticut. And my trip last week to Chicago spun—in addition to a gentleman from Hong Kong—a father who needs others to help him fight childhood leukemia, (which affected his oldest son). And there were at least a dozen more.
The late William Temple, the Archbishop of Canterbury during World War II, wrote: “Moral progress means enlarging the circle of our concern.” The larger our circle, the more our morality grows and deepens. And while some would argue that the best we can hope for is to expand the circle to those in our immediate family, or to close friends or neighbors, most experts would agree that this is simply an extended form of self-interest. Harvard biologist E.O.Wilson and philosopher Peter Singer show that “a capacity to act in the interests of others, even at real cost to you, is as much a part of what we are biologically equipped for as is self-concern.” In other words, we not only have the creative freedom to spin people into our world wide web; we have an innate desire to do so!
The key is keeping them there. For it’s easy to make new, casual acquaintances with total strangers, and to be kind to them for the duration of the trip, only to leave them as dust prints upon returning to your home sanctuary. It’s easy to make friends with your neighbors, only to re-locate and drop them like a pair of shoes on your welcome mat. The creative energy comes from maintaining the relationships. From spinning your web tightly enough that once entered, they can’t leave. And, truthfully, if you emit pure joy, they will want to be in your web, anyway. And they will want you in theirs! It will be the start of fascinating relationships that will take you on journeys of breathtaking proportions!
So agree—in your quest for spiritual parenting—to become a family of explorers. Keep your eyes wide open for those people whom you want to spin into your world-wide web. And while you’re at it, keep your heart open, too. And then you’ll know exactly where you should make that next beeline. You’ll be drawn to people mysteriously—and know that you’re in for some serious cardio-spinning.