I never talk to people on planes. So, I’m not sure why–in my invigor-zausted state–I struck up a conversation on my flight home after four days at the ISTE conference in San Antonio. I hadn’t given the guy in my row a second thought, other than noticing his blue polo. It wasn’t until he grabbed his conference magazine that I noticed him. “How was your conference?” I blurted.
It turned out he was a tech coordinator, a father of five, who was–like me–ready to be home. After talking shop for awhile and lamenting our similar challenges in the teckie teaching space, the mention of his Mormon mission bubbled up in the conversation. This was the point where my outsides didn’t match my insides. Outside I was nodding, making normal conversation. Inside I was wiggling. My curiosity was tempered with a knowledge that faith conversations can be hard to navigate.
Instead of following my gut instinct–to check out of the conversation and into my book–I asked some honest questions. I don’t know if I expected oxygen masks to drop at the thought of inter-faith dialogue, but as the fasten seat belt sign blinked off, signaling the end of the flight, we shook hands as I grabbed my carry-on, feeling thankful for where our words had taken us.
No, I’m not moving to Temple Square, but I wonder–am I too comfortable in my little faith silo? Why did entering this conversation freak me out? I keep reading the word pluralistic to describe the diversifying geography of belief and in the U.S. You don’t have to walk far to find someone who views the world differently. Grace is required to engage in these conversations, but it’s more than possible–it can be a blessing to find the beauty in the way that someone else practices his or her faith.
I don’t want other faiths to paralyze me, scare me, or throw me into a relativistic “I’m right, you’re right, everything is allright” sing-song faith. The deep questions can bring us together–even if the world wants our answers to drive us apart.
Looking back on the conversation, I know that this man and I practice our faith in different places–physically and theologically–but as we sat on that plane, we were just two teckie people, ready to get home to our kiddos. When we reached those teeter-totter places in the conversation, whan what’s been said leaves one vulnerable as the other doesn’t agree, God gave us the creative grace to continue the conversation all the way to our destination.
I went to San Antonio to learn about education and technology. And I did. My brain felt full by like 9:30 each day, but as I unpack both my bag and my notes today, I’m glad that I also learned about the Mormon faith, through the textbook of a life flying in the same direction as me.
“There was a woman across the court, and she had dreams and inner convictions which were just as real as mine and which did not include me. . . she was real, and so, therefore was everybody else in the world. And so, therefore, was I. . . I did more than exist. I was. That afternoon when I went to the park I looked at everybody I passed on the street, full of wonder at their realness.” – Madeline L’Engle
– Top Left City-Scape: View from The Tower of the Americas.
– Quote Marker: The Alamo
– Steak House: Restaurant in the small art community, La Velita. The owner gave me a glass of ice water for free on a hot day.
– Fuscha at the top right: Tree flower petals that dotted the sidewalks.
– Red Spiral: Gift to San Antonio from Mexico signifying friendship.
– Zoltar Video Game: Repeatedly said, “What are you waiting for?”