Friday, May 25, 2012

When the stars fall from the sky

Miles and miles sped beneath the wheels of the Intourist bus that endlessly ferried us through cities, countryside and towns of the Soviet Union's former republics. U2's The Joshua Tree was on repeat on my Discman, me being all of 16 years old and out of the country for the first time in my life. Cities and towns, cities and towns, aging mosques, strident Soviet monuments, Stalin's grave, Lenin's tomb...they all clicked like snapshots as the miles mounted. In one country, so many faces, diverse and unique and representing the beautiful ethnic communities that co-existed, barely, in this complex space. People were eager to speak with us, to learn about our country, to know what life was like outside of what they knew. I remember the students from Moscow University that accompanied us for part of the trip and a boy named Denis that my friend Annie drew out in the most amazing way, in the shortest period of time.

This was the trip where I understood my smallness in the bigness of the world. Looking out of the bus window into cities crowded with people, I was overwhelmed by the idea that behind each set of eyes sat a story, a history, family, loves, desires and dreams. That within each person lay a map of experiences and feelings to be plumbed, explored and investigated. These moments gave me a tightness in my chest that I to this day cannot explain, that somewhere in the smooth flow of the music running through my body I felt alive and connected to the multitudes of people carrying on their own individual lives in that moment.

This feeling has stayed with me for as many years, the feeling of being small in a big world, the feeling of being connected to people through the recognition of their own uniqueness. I think the tightness in my chest was as much about knowing the vastness of the world as the opportunity to connect with people on so many levels, all the while knowing you'll never connect with all the people your being desires to meet.

I sat in a bar with a friend of a friend last night, immediately taken with her bright eyes and engaging personality. Earlier this week I had lunch with a (soon-to-be former) co-worker/friend who I've known just a year but feel incredibly connected to. I've been drawn in by people I work with, people I live with, people I don't know and will never see again just talking between tables at a coffee shop or sitting on a plane. I've had my life change course in moments in bars in Guatemala and mountain tops in Colorado and leadership training weekends in Australia. There are things that pass between people when the heart space is open, beautiful and intense things that may last but for moment but stay in your memory for years the vibe is so present. It's the openness to this experience that brings beauty to this world, even if it is sharing something as simple a smile through the window of a bus passing through Red Square.

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