So, I’ve been thinking–and we all know how frightening it can be when I get to thinking–about something a lot this week. I’ve been pondering just how many missed opportunities we experience every day simply because we choose not to engage in conversations and interactions. Of course, we all have moments of stress or exhaustion, when we voluntarily dive into the hypnotic void of Instagram’s discover page or endless strings of unopened Snapchat stories and lose our real engagement with the world as it moves around us. But so often the chances we are given to connect with people are passed by when we’re actually present in our surroundings but just not willing to take the risk.
Perhaps it would be better for me to give you a real example; my infatuation with this topic wasn’t without a trigger, after all. This Thursday, I had to take a bus to Oakland right from rehearsal. (Cru, a Pitt ministry I attend, was that night, and I was meeting with a mentor before it began). When I boarded and headed to my favorite row, I immediately noticed a notebook sitting on the seat beside me. It was well-worn and bursting from the mass of its contents, held together by a vital string of elastic stretched across the cover, which was black with a collage of bold print white words. It emanated personality, so much so that I felt like I’d somehow already met the journal’s owner just by holding it in my hands.
After asking nearby passengers if it belonged to them and getting only no’s, my first instinct was to turn the notebook in to the driver when I reached my stop–after all, that’s the safest way for someone to get a lost item back from the bus station (I’m speaking from experience as someone who’s been blessed enough to retrieve my lost wallet and purse from the bus in years past). But, I had a long ride ahead of me before my destination. So, I opened the book and unveiled an inside cover lined with vibrant stickers, some Post-Its, and a collection of folded papers. I continued flipping through and found page upon page of hand-written songs, poems, and sketches. Trying my best to avoid reading and violating the privacy of this mystery writer, I continued flipping back and forth, mesmerized by the sheer quantity of work and emotion that had been poured into the pages. And with each minute that passed, each stop we reached, I found myself hating more and more the idea of leaving this beautiful, personal, vulnerable piece of someone in the hands of the Port Authority bus system.
In that instant, then, I transformed into a true private investigator, determined to track down the owner of this journal and return it safely. Within seconds of searching, I found the name of the writer, but I had no success finding any contact or even a social media account that held promise of finding him. With a second perusal through the memorabilia beneath the front cover, though, my eye caught an exciting bit of evidence: a sticky note with five names and five phone numbers. Excited by the thrill of this new lead, I formatted a group text between all the phone numbers, explaining the situation and asking for a means to contact the suspect. After a cautious “Who is this?” and further elaboration, I managed to acquire the phone number I was after and initiate communication. I spent the remainder of my ride giddy with the success of my mission and the bizarre nature of texting five people I’d never met in my life.
Fast forward two hours and multiple messages: I exited the brisk evening air and walked inside to join the horde of students waiting for Cru to begin. Squinting with concentration, I locked my eyes on the stretch of hall before me, trying to find him, the one “in the dumb magenta shirt with a blue backpack” (his words not mine). After a few minutes, I spotted him, politely pushing through the swarm of conversation–the face of the pages. He saw me and hurried over, smiling widely and offering a string of gratitude as I retrieved the catalyst of our entire communication from my bag. He eagerly took it back, asked if it was weird to give me a hug, did with my go ahead, told me he might come to Cru some time, and then headed out the revolving door.
On that night, the whimsical side of me imagined every possible outcome of the evening: I mean, how amazing would it be if we fell madly in love at first sight and had the hands-down best story to tell about how we met?? Since that night, I’ve dreamed about how this guy could become a famous songwriter and I could emerge as the silent hero who saved his music on the Outbound 54C that September day. Again, me with the thinking can get out of control. All joking aside, though, what that day really showed me–regardless of the lack of Disney fairy-tale content–was how one decision to connect with a stranger, whatever that may look like, can be rewarding beyond your imagination. The fact that at 6pm I had no idea who Jordan ***** was, but by 8 I was hugging him and inviting him to Cru and seeing the relief of his work being returned was so cool. Just think about how many people we could get to know if we only saw the opportunities…
Definitely glad I didn’t turn in that notebook.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people
Cinnamon Toast Monkey Bread (V)
- 1 packet fast-rising yeast
- 1 cup almond milk, separated
- 1/4 cup vegan butter
- 1/4 cup vegan sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- about 4 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup vegan butter, melted
- 1 box of Giant Eagle brand “Cinnamon Toast Squares” cereal
- 1/2 cup vegan brown sugar
- 2/3 cup vegan butter, melted
- remaining cereal
- almond milk
- Place half of the milk and the vegan butter in a microwave-safe measuring cup or bowl. Heat for 30 second intervals, stirring between, until the butter is melted. Pour the mixture into a large bowl, and stir in sugar.
- When the mixture cools to warm but not hot, stir in yeast. Let sit for five minutes. Mix in salt and remaining milk.
- Begin mixing in flour, a cup at a time, until the dough comes together and can be transferred to a floured counter top.
- Knead the dough, incorporating flour to keep it from sticking to your counter. Knead until the dough is very smooth and elastic and passes the window pane test. ( https://www.thekitchn.com/bakers-techniques-how-to-do-th-70784 )
- Use butter to grease your mixing bowl. Place dough in bowl, flip twice to grease both sides, and cover bowl with saran wrap or damp towel. Allow to rise until doubled in size, usually 1-1 1/2 hours.
- Grease a bundt pan with vegan butter generously, making sure all crevices are covered.
- Remove a handful of cereal from the bag; set aside. Using bags and a heavy object (I opted for my marble rolling pin), crush the remaining cereal in the bag into very small crumbs. Place them in a bowl. Melt 1/3 cup vegan butter in another bowl.
- When dough has finished proving, gently punch it down, and cut into golf-ball sized chunks (this does NOT have to be exact).
- Sprinkle crushed cereal on the bottom of the greased bundt pan. Roll each dough chunk in bowl of melted butter and then in the crushed cereal; arrange them in the pan until you’ve used all the dough. It will only reach about half of the pan’s height (Save extra crumbs).
- Cover pan with saran wrap, and place on stove to rest for 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Melt 2/3 cups vegan butter in microwave, and whisk in brown sugar until dissolved.
- After dough has rested, pour butter/brown sugar mixture evenly over top of the dough balls. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes, or until the top is nicely-browned.
- Meanwhile, take the remaining cereal, and place it in a food processor/Nutribullet. Pour in enough almond milk to cover the cereal, and pulse until blended. Continue adding almond milk until a desired consistency is reached (this will be poured on top of the monkey bread). Whisk in salt to taste.
- When bread has baked, remove from the oven, and let is rest in the pan for about 5 minutes. Then, invert onto a plate or tray, drizzle with milk/cereal glaze, and top with handful of cereal set aside. Eat immediately!
**If you don’t plan to eat it all right away, store bread and glaze separately in the fridge until you’re ready to eat it!