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April 20, 2023

Hi, My Name is John

Have you spent any time in Stevenson, Washington?  Once you escape the busyness of I-5 and that not-so-scenic part of I-84 through Troutdale, it’s a beautiful drive with the Columbia River on your left and the cliffs and waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge on your right.

The highlight is crossing the Bridge of the Gods.

Kathleen and I made the drive the Monday after Easter.  It was a planned getaway to a small cabin in Stevenson for a few nights.  [Men, it is a super cool place.  If you want to take your wife there, I am happy to share the details if you email me.]

But none of this is relevant to what I really want to talk about.

Saturday afternoon, Kathleen was at the cabin, and I was buying lunch at a food cart in Stevenson.  It was raining, and two of us stood under a tin roof shelter, waiting for our orders.

I was content watching the rain fill the puddles, determined not to spend time staring at my phone and embracing the wait.

But the man waiting next to me didn’t waste any time.  He stuck out his hand to shake mine and said, “Hi, my name is John.”  He had bright eyes and a big smile.  I’m guessing he was in his late 20s or early 30s.

I was caught off guard.  I was genuinely surprised.  It’s one thing to make small talk with a stranger, but he initiated the conversation with his name and a handshake.  Because of that, there was an instant connection.

He wasn’t a local, welcoming me to his small town.  He was from Wyoming and attending a forestry conference at Skamania Lodge.

We talked for about three minutes before his food was ready, and he had to go.

But hours later, I found myself reflecting on that interaction.   That surprised me too.  We didn’t talk at length, cover any important topics, or make a profound connection.

It was simply because he introduced himself and shook my hand.

Once again, I was reminded of the Brennan Manning quote, “In every encounter, we either give life or we drain it.  There is no neutral exchange.”

In a world where people are growing increasingly detached from one another, I like knowing there are men like John out there making connections with strangers.

Jesus did that all the time.

We have that ability, too.


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