On a typical workday morning as I rode the El to the Chicago Loop, I would be jostled as I moved through the crowded car to a seat. The train was noisy and uncomfortable, and passengers would be flung against one another and knocked about as it screeched around the sharp curves. When it descended into the subway tunnels, there were showers of sparks and the internal lights blinked off and on. This daily experience was an assault on the senses and the nerves. 
Many passengers buried their noses in the Chicago Tribune or the Sun-Times. Others stared straight ahead with expressionless faces. Eye contact was rare and conversations were rarer. Perhaps survival in this jarring and surreal environment demanded that each person withdraw beneath a protective façade of isolation.
I had lived in Chicago for five years, found and grew a career in software, and learned to navigate through the urban lifestyle. It was time to leave. I moved to Florida.
Several years later I traveled routinely from Orlando to Anchorage. I was struck by unexpected cultural differences in the snowy north. It began in the airports in the lower 49. Eye contact was common among the passengers waiting to board the last leg of our flights to Alaska. Folks exchanged glances and nods, and acknowledged one another’s presence.
I knew from my Alaskan studies that the population was sparse and survival depended on community and cooperation. People were not invisible to each other. I noticed the eye contact and nods from passersby on the sidewalks and shoppers in the grocery stores. Though largely unspoken, there was ongoing recognition of the interdependency of the residents.
These two different American experiences seem to illustrate the great work of Martin Buber, the eminent Jewish philosopher and scholar who was born in Vienna in 1878.  Buber is best known for his book I and Thou. In it, he described two contrasting ways of interacting with the world around us. In one way, we see others from a viewpoint of “I and It”—objectifying the other, whether the other be human, animal, vegetable or mineral.
In contrast, when we interact from the “I and Thou” viewpoint, we acknowledge the divine presence within every manifestation of life.  The “I and Thou” relationship also implies a two-way exchange. It reminds me of one of the interpretations of the ancient Hindu greeting of Namaste: The Christ in me greets the Christ in thee.
A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in a waiting area at a Kaiser medical facility. Unexpectedly, a young man plopped in the seat next to me and asked if I wanted to see his owie. When I looked over and saw the gauze taped in the crook of his elbow, I noticed that he had some characteristics of Down syndrome. I asked him if his owie still hurt, he replied yes, and then raised his shirt to show me another dressing on his chest. I commiserated with him.
He asked my name, and I told him it was Carla. He said his name was Dillon, with two “L’s,” making the shape of an L with his thumb and forefinger. Then he laid his head on my shoulder.
Dillon sat back up and asked the woman seated next to me what her name was. She replied. He introduced himself, then proceeded to ask several more folks in the row of chairs facing us. Some were reading, some were focused on their phones; others were in conversation with their companions. I watched as each person was surprised by being addressed. I watched their faces soften as they noticed the beauty and innocence of Dillon’s Down features. I saw them light up as they shared their names, and I noticed the love and warmth steadily increase in our little circle of chairs.
Dillon laid his head back on my shoulder as the ad hoc community that he had created shared information about themselves and asked caring questions of each other. Dillon’s guardian then appeared and it was time for him to leave. We all told him goodbye, and as he exited, he turned around to wave and then skipped out.
The childlike magic of this special human had transformed a group of “I and It” strangers into a glowing circle of “I and Thou” companions who shared their light for a short time in an otherwise mundane, and perhaps stressful setting.
In Unity we teach that we are One: One with God, One with each other and One with All That Is. On that day not long ago, I saw what a difference a child made. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” I believe that our friend Dillon with two “L’s” is a living example of the change that will bring us into that kingdom.
Many blessings,
Rev. Carla