Over the weekend I was on a plane flying home from Houston. My normal airplane routine is to get a window seat and immerse myself in a book. I like to use the flight time as a transition from wherever I’ve been to wherever I’m going. That didn’t happen this time.

I was returning from the Annual Assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) where we were about 800 religious Sisters in attendance. That the nautilusplane was half full of Sisters didn’t escape most people’s attention. The young woman who took the middle seat next to me was full of questions—Why are there so many nuns on the plane? Where are you going? Why were you in Houston? After our initial conversation I took a moment to explain that the symbol of the Assembly was a chambered nautilus shell and our theme was Meeting the Thirsts of the World. That’s when everything changed. Our conversation shifted from superficial sound bites to one of depth, just as the nautilus spirals deeper and deeper. She shared that something she thirsts for is stillness and time to think her thoughts. I shared that a contemplative stance toward life is something that women religious desire to model.

Our 2-hour flight passed quickly. We learned from each other and realized that we share some common thirsts. Perhaps we each exited the plane a little less thirsty than when we boarded. I gave thanks to God that I opened myself to conversation with a stranger rather than bury my head in a book. God can do so much in and through us with the smallest of efforts!

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