And finally, we are ignoring one another: everyone is staring into the glowing light of their phones as if they were magic mirrors on the wall like in fairy tales, ready to dispense some kind of precious truth or wisdom or encouragement. And all of this seems to signify the much deeper divisions that are among us, wondering who belongs to which house, and what campaign signs are in their front yard.
Then, from behind me, I hear a wordless cry of distress.
My head snapped around, wondering if I was going to be right in the midst of an altercation before the polls had even opened. But instead, I see a man staring down at his phone which is face-down on the concrete where he had just dropped it. And a quick burst of adrenaline coursed through me as I imagined myself, remembered myself, in that situation when it has happened to me.
Behind him, two women in line are covering their mouths in empathetic surprise, craning around to see, while a tall man behind him is wincing (I can tell by his eyes) in familiar pain.
The man who dropped the phone slowly bends over and reaches down for the phone. His fingers wrap around the edges and he picks it up, then straightens back and slowly flips it over. The screen is completely intact. The two women behind him clap excitedly while doing a quick hop in place; the tall wincing man rolls his eyes and lets his shoulders go slack from the tension he was holding there.
And suddenly everyone is talking: making lighthearted jokes, recalling when something similar had happened to them, congratulating the man on his good fortune. Or rather, on his wise precautions; the phone was encased in a protective cover that absorbed all the shock of the fall.
And that’s when I notice the second thing: how together we now are.
In that moment of the man’s reaction to dropping his phone, we came together because we could all relate to the man’s mistake, his concern, and his relief. Now, the reality is, the deeper divisions between us about the election did not disappear, but they stopped determining every aspect of our identity and behavior, at least for our time together. Regardless of who the man was there to vote for and who we intended to vote for, our commonality as human beings came to the forefront as we joined him first in empathy for the fragile phone that seemed almost certainly broken, and then in celebration when it was not.
As I am finishing this article, it is now late in the day, and I have put down my own phone for a few hours because all I am seeing on there is what is divided and seemingly broken about us a society. And, make no mistake, those divisions are real, and they are important, almost infinitely more important than the fate of someone’s phone.
And yet I can’t help but think how quickly community emerged from just beneath the surface of division there outside the polling station, as if it was a household pet crouched in the shadows on the stoop just waiting for someone to open the door so it can dart inside.
I hope that our Special Prayer Service for National Healing tomorrow night (Wednesday) at 6 p.m. will be another such opportunity, another open door through which community can dart in from the midst of division. Those divisions not simply over candidates but over beliefs and commitments and fears and hopes for our nation are real; many are over important things, and some are over crucial questions about who and how we will be as a nation going forward.
And regardless of who wins this election, those divisions will remain. Which means that the work of the church to fulfill Christ’s command to love our neighbors as ourselves is itself more crucial than ever, for there is much that is broken and hurting in our nation and between neighbors that needs to be healed, and love is always at the heart of true healing.
So we will begin that work in a new way tomorrow night behind the church building in a special prayer service. You can join in person; please let us know
if you plan to attend. You can also participate through the livestream or listen via phone (see details below)
. This service is likely to last 30-40 minutes, so please dress accordingly if you are coming in person.
I look forward to seeing you there.
Grace and Peace,