Lost is a fairly recent American drama series that ran from 2004 until 2010. The main premise is that airplane crash survivors find themselves stranded in an island. Throughout the seasons, the audience gets to know the backstory of each of the main characters and the choices they made that led them to the island.
There are many themes that run through the main storyline. Among them are relationships, mortality, redemption, forgiveness, love, heroism, and a host of other themes that recur as characters are put into circumstances that question what they think they know about themselves. One of my favorite recurring themes is interconnectedness. By the end of the series, each survivor finds some form of resolution through his established relationships with the other survivors, who at the beginning were strangers.
One of the things that hooked me from the very beginning of the series was the uncanny way the writers always seemed to find a connection among characters even before they met each other on the island. The flashback scenes would point to an instance in which one character unknowingly met another character and caused a major turning point in his life. Six degrees of separation at its narrative best.
So on days when I have some time to ruminate on life’s big questions, I wonder if there is some truth to the belief that there is an unseen purpose in the comings and goings of the various people in our lives. Oh, the important people are not so hard to figure out. Of course we’re meant to make a difference in the lives of our families and friends.
But what about the people we meet only for an instant, an encounter? A beggar on the street? The man in front of us in the line at the polling station? The doctor in the emergency room? The fellow passenger waiting for news of the delayed flight? We chitchat to make the time pass or to ease an awkward moment. But what if that moment was an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life?
Heavy stuff. The weight of the purpose of our daily existence suddenly becomes unbearable if we have to take into consideration not only those closest to us but even those whom we meet once in our lives. We might run into the tricky situation of always falling short of our standards because it’s so very hard after all to “make a difference” when there are no objective measures for that.
But perhaps the weight becomes more bearable if we focus instead on doing one basic thing – figuring out how to bring Christ to everyone we meet. Hoping to come up with grand gestures of charity can often paralyze us. But the Pope says that the duty of every Christian is to bring Christ to everyone. Sometimes, that can be as simple as being courteous, sharing a smile, looking into a stranger’s eyes when we speak, or looking up from our mobile devices.
The bulk, then, of the encounter isn’t entirely on us. It’s simply allowing God to work through us. And maybe, just maybe, the encouraging smile is all a person needs to get through one more hour of routine work. Maybe the polite conversation is what stops a stressed-out passenger from yelling at the girl at the counter. And maybe, sharing a kind suggestion instead of a complaint is all the validation an employee needs to build his confidence.
And if we’re constantly focus on bringing Christ to others, then we are more likely to become aware, when Christ himself comes to meet us through strangers. And perhaps, like the fictional characters of Lost, we might find that we’re no longer strangers after all.
[Originally written in TACKED THOUGHTS for The Freeman
by Nancy Unchuan Toledo]