Taking the subway to class last week, the inevitable happened: there was a delay during the morning rush.
With a growing number of us on the platform, the announcer informed us that due to an emergency at another station, our train would be delayed up to 10 minutes.
For some, this delay seemed almost traumatic. The woman beside me rolled her eyes so hard I thought she would fall over, her exasperated sigh was loud enough that several people turned to look.
For others, it seemed an expected event, yet they still expressed anger. “Happens every #^(% day!” was cried out with enthusiasm, as though the delay had been intentional.
The man beside me was hearing impaired, so his delay frustration was increased by an inability to independently access information, relying on those around him to repeat.
For me, it started as an annoyance: I now might be late, and I was scheduled to lead prayers that day. An unfortunate disruption to my plan, but certainly not the end of the world.
I could do nothing about the delay; I could only choose how to react to it.
I sent a text to a classmate explaining my delay. I waited. As one emergency turned to multiple emergencies, the wait extended, and many people’s negativity increased.
I reflected on what could be done with those minutes. Those 10 minutes.
I decided to be thankful. I had 10 minutes of forced stillness. Multiple emergencies meant multiple people were in significant need of the authorities; I was not one of them.
I had my coffee in hand, in a climate controlled environment. I had no immediate threat, I was not in medical distress. I had the opportunity to practice a gentle compassion. I saw the time as an invitation to prayer for those who were not as fortunate as I was at that moment.
Had I chosen to be annoyed by the delay, the only accomplishment would have been adding stress to myself. Instead, I opted to perceive those 10 minutes as a gift, an invitation, a time in a busy day to be still in the midst of chaos; to be quiet in the midst of noise; to be open to the presence of God even in the middle of an urban commute.
I hope that I always see a delay for the potential God-moment it is.