Friendships in Airports: Holy Communion for Seekers Like Me 王松鹤 Songhe Wang
Many of us have had the experience of going to an airport and making a new friend. Usually the friendship is short because we never see the person again. But in a moment spent together, waiting for a plane, we find ourselves visiting with someone and asking about their lives. They share with us and we share with them. I am reminded of the idea of holy communion in Christianity. I am not a Christian, but I like the phrase. I know that for Christians this communion is a ritual which derives from Jesus’ having a supper with his disciples before he died. They shared bread and wine. Sometimes we experience a moment of holy communion in airports, before we catch a plane. Always these communions are of finite duration. But in the moment of sharing something infinite is touched. There is no need to name this something infinite.
Earlier this year I found myself going to the airport in Little Rock, Arkansas, to wait for a friend who was coming in at 9:40 pm. I cannot drive, so a friend of mine took me to the airport early. I had four hours to wait. I assumed that I would be among those at the airport to wait the longest. However, not long after I was there, I noticed an old lady who seemed to have been there for some time. I went up, sat next to her and started the conversation. We have been seeing each other ever since, whenever I go to the airport.
Her name is Lou Tressie Wilson. She is always there, because her son works at the airport. When her son is at work, she doesn’t like being left alone at home, because she is afraid. So each time her son goes to work, she comes to the airport with him. That is why she is always there earlier than I. She sits in a couch in the lobby of the airport, looking at people coming and going. When I left the airport at 10:20pm that night, she was still there waiting for her son.
What does she seek in the airport? As time went by, she has established many friendships with the people working at the airport. They stop by and chat with her. Lou says: “I like watching people and enjoy talking with people”.
At first, I thought she was afraid of loneliness. Now I think I was just partly right. There is an impulse within each of us, which makes us need to touch others and find connection with the outside world. We have that impulse when we are young, and also when we are in our eighties, like Lou.
I think of trees. It seems to me that the touch and the connection with others is like the root of a tree. The tree is nourished by the water and nutrients underneath the ground, and we are nourished by the water and nutrients of others people’s souls. They water us and we water them, when we make contact with each other.
Lou has become church for me. Each time I am in Little Rock Airport, I look for her. We have met for three times now. She has found connection there, and I have found connection there, too. Like her I will keep seeking.
Lou gives me new eyes for a character in Chinese which I love.
cí Sometimes we think of compassion as something we ought to do out of moral obligation. But trees do not seek nourishment from the ground beneath them because they are obliged to do so. They seek nourishment because they need the nourishment for the satisfaction of their natures. Whitehead proposes that all human beings at every moment are seeking satisfaction, seeking a sense of completeness, a sense of harmony, of wholeness. Lou seeks satisfaction in friendships in the airport. I find satisfaction in knowing her.