Last week, I rode a record-breaking roller coaster. Kingda Ka, as it is known, is the tallest and second-fastest in the world. It climbs as high as 45 stories into the sky: closer to the heavens than any other ride. There was peacefulness, and a sense of closeness to God (though I know that those who are afraid of roller coasters will scoff at my sense of divinity).
And yet, this incredible 32 seconds was not even close to the holiest experience I had that day. Instead, I was surprised to find that God had other plans in the works for me.
When my husband Seth and I pulled into the park, the gates were still closed. So we sat at the edge of the parking lot in the car, watching the clock, listening to music. A car pulled up next to us with a middle-aged woman in the driver’s seat. She asked if we knew what time the lot opened. We did not, and we told her so, then we went back to what we were doing. But she kept talking.
We weren’t sure what to make of it, so we just listened to her. She was back in school, was a mother of three and was interested in serving as a counselor to those with addictions and alcoholism. She had suffered a severe stroke in 2008, and been told that she would never walk again. Somehow, miraculously, she survived and healed, and she was striking items off her “bucket list.” One of her goals was to go on roller coasters that used to scare her. She was at Six Flags to get a season’s pass and to visit as often as she could. Seth and I warmly encouraged her to start today – even though she was alone, she could take her time and ride whatever she wanted.
She continued to tell us more, and we had the feeling that we were meant to be there. We were meant to talk to her. We were there to witness her story, to hear her, and to help her further along the path of healing. I didn’t even mention I was clergy until the end of the conversation, and she said that she was so grateful to have met us.
And I felt the same way about her because the encounter reminded me of something incredibly important: there is a spark of divinity inside every single person we meet. Here was another person, created in the image of God, who had her own beautiful story to share. I felt so lucky to have been privy to her story, even for just a short time.
It was an encounter filled with unexpected holiness.
And I believe that if we just open our eyes to the possibility, we might find these kinds of encounters all the time. If we were just a little more patient, or took just a little more time during our days, we might find that we have opportunities to bring light to other people’s lives, or allow them to bring light to ours.
So think back to the week that is now coming to a close. Were there any moments of unexpected holiness? Any times that you brought light to someone’s life? If you are able to think of something, great! If not, why not try to make room for more light this coming week? Open up your days so that you have a chance to have significant, meaningful encounters with the people that you meet. Even with strangers waiting with you in line at an amusement park. Moments of holiness are possible at any time.
In these moments, God is with us, smiling.
Rabbi Marci Bellows is a spiritual leader at Temple B’nai Torah community in Wantagh, Long Island. A native of Skokie, Illinois, she earned a B.A. in Psychology from Brandeis University and a Masters in Hebrew Literature in 2003 from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She was ordained in 2004.