I met a 15 yr. old boy on a plane.
Now I don’t kill bugs.
Cameron was a clean cut, african american teenager from a catholic family, who attended a public school and had an extremely diverse friend group. He was traveling back from his brother’s graduation (which, to him, was terribly boring) and he was in the middle seat between myself and a woman named Anne, reading a book, and popping in and out of our conversation about her college-age son and his current experiences.
Between some stories and connection points, he asks me if I’m scared of anything.
“Not a lot, but mainly spiders. My roommates kill them for me.” He is scared of lakes, but still makes an effort to get in them anyways.
After bouncing around topics from friendships to interests to high school, his music selection, my ministry trip and relationship with God, he asks me, “Do you think animals have souls?”
“Oh yeah!” Popped right out of my mouth. “You hear those awesome stories about horses that comfort children and dogs that know when their master needs affection. Man, they know!”
“Then why do you kill spiders?” Silence.
Shocked that we were revisiting the topic of my fears, and surprised that he just called me out on an action that contradicted a belief, I responded, “Dude, people do crazy things when they’re scared!” We moved on from the topic in all different directions (as I, and teenagers, often do). We both expressed appreciation for such an informative and enjoyable conversation and wished each other well as he reunited with his family and I found the rest of my team.
I arrived home that night around 2 AM and was instantly encountered by one of the ugliest spiders I’ve ever seen in my home. He was right next to all the shoes, and I instantly heard Cameron in my head, “Do you believe animals have souls?”
I laughed out loud.
“Then why do you kill spiders?” I heard in my head next.
I quickly found an old yogurt container, labeled it “Julie’s Bug Catcher (1) Keep handy (2) Don’t use for food”, scooped him up, and threw the whole container outside for my roommates to find the next morning.
In the following days, I proceed to see more strange looking bugs than I have ever encountered in my home! Cameron confronted a belief of mine, questioned an action, inspired me to make a life change, and I was being tested!
My roommates began using the bug catcher too. They didn’t know what triggered the change of heart, and Cameron will never know, that one of his questions inspired a house of 20-somethings to catch bugs with a yogurt container they store on their bookshelf.
This whole experience shined a huge light on the fact that we human beings with souls and emotions and opinions and convictions can’t help but be influenced by one another.
To me, giving room to hear words and opinions of others is a way to honor them, and each stranger I sit by on a plane is no coincidence. By engaging in conversation with a human being, I step into their range of influence, and they step into mine.
And I can’t help but wonder which part of my conversations will stick with me, and what will remain with them; and when will key phrases pop back into mind, and what will they influence?
“Then why do you kill them?”
“You’re such a good dad.”
“You are an overcomer.”
“I see a different perspective actually.”
Words will hit a human heart – and have the potential to change everything.
Maybe my bug catching days will cease and I’ll return to killing them, but I won’t soon forget Cameron. Nice to meet you, buddy. We are over comers, and we are influencers.
Keep talking; you never know how far your influence will go and who you’re influencing.