I was on my way to an appointment in the downtown core of the city of Toronto; a place I am more used to seeing in the distant haze on the horizon than at close quarters.
My friend Irene had advised taking the subway and so, having parked my car on the rooftop of a multi story car park at the Madison Centre, I found my way, with the help of kind strangers along the way, through the tunnel to the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) at Yonge and Shepherd.
A little breathless from running down the stairs, I was relieved to finally be on the southbound train as it lurched away from the station, along the one of the routes that run like veins from the suburbs to the pulsing heart of the city.
As the train zoomed, swaying and rolling through the various stops, to my destination at Yonge and Bloor, I looked with curiosity at my fellow passengers and observed their practiced ability to close themselves off from human contact. I noted the downcast eyes, the studied concentration on a book, or document pulled from a briefcase; anything but connection with people. Every other person seemed to have his or her ears plugged by an iPod from which issued the tinny staccato beat of music.
I amused myself by imagining finding out the name of the passenger next to me and then introducing him or her to everyone else on the train. In my mind's eye I saw people looking into eachother's eyes, laughing; discovering the delight of connection, but when I looked up. alas everyone was still in the grip of "the TTC trance."
Two hours later, after my appointment, I returned to the subway station, descending the stairs, less hurried now than I had been earlier. Again I joined the silent travelers on the platform, waiting for the northbound train.
From somewhere behind me, above the roar of approaching trains I heard strains of music. I turned and saw a busker; a short, stocky, elderly, white haired man, who had just sat down near a wall, and was playing an accordian. In front of him lay an empty, open case, for donations.
I fumbled in the breast pocket of my coat for the change I knew was there and quickly went over and made a contribution. Our eyes met; both of us were saying the same thing, "Thank you."
I turned back towards the platform where my train would arrive at any moment, but as I listened to the romantic strains of the Viennese waltz by Johann Strauss, every fibre of my being was responding to the lilting music.
My heart and memory carried me back to the kitchen of my childhood, where on Wednesday evening every week, my mother would take out her beautiful accordian of marbled blue finish, with coloured glass inset "gems," and play the melodies of her growing up years in Holland.
My imagination took flight again as I fancied the stoic strangers around me inviting each other to dance and waltzing along the platform.
The train arrived, and with a backward glance and smile of gratitude at my musician friend, I stepped away from the captivating music. A woman with a soft Scottish accent smiled at me as we boarded and said, as if she sensed how much I was enjoying it. "Nice music," she said.
I laughed and said "Yes." Human contact had been made.
And I wonder if God finds us as closed off as travelers on the TTC. Does he look at us with longing and wait for us to glance up and look him in the eye? Does he long to make contact, heart to heart? Does he woo us with the music of heaven, trying to break through the shell of our self absorption, wanting to infuse us with his love, and the pure, real joy that can only come from him?
1 John 4:11-12 (The Message)
The Message (MSG)
11-12My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!