I’ve recently arrived in Louisville, KY to deliver a paper at a conference titled, “Contemplation in a Technological Era: Thomas Merton’s Insight for the Twenty-First Century,” at Bellarmine University. This is the second time this year that I’ve visited the campus of Bellarmine. This past January I was in town for a few days to do some research in the archives at the Thomas Merton Center, the largest and most important repository of Merton’s work. I hope to make it back to the collection, if there’s time, to look into a few more things that would aid scholarly project on which I am currently working.

The lineup for this weekend’s conference is excellent (I exclude myself in that statement, of course). The keynote address tonight is to be delivered by Albert Borgman, a professor of philosophy at the University of Montana and well known for his work in technology, philosophy and religion. Among the other speakers are Sr. Kathleen Deignan (current president of the ITMS), Philip Thompson, Clare Bararacco, Gray Matthews and Paul Dekar. Dekar, it should be noted, recently published what I think is an excellent book that is related in many ways to the theme of this conference: Thomas Merton: Twentieth-Century Wisdom for Twenty-First Century Living (Cascade 2011).

On a bit of a tangential note, I want to express my sincerest gratitude to the gentleman who gave up his seat on the plane for me. As it happens, likely the result of the airlines’ increasing efforts to raise revenue without any regard for their passengers by canceling flights and decreasing services, my flight was overbooked. How these things happen are beyond me.  Well the plane checked in completely full and three of us were bumped from the flight. The two other men were traveling together, employees of a government agency who were coming to Louisville for work. One seat was left on the plane (someone jumped at the “buy out” opportunity the airline tossed his or her way) and one of the two men was first on the list, which left a dilemma: does he go by himself and hope that his coworker find an alternative route, or could they both fly standby or leave the next day?

After some serious reflection, the man said “let this guy have the seat” (referring to me), knowing that I was traveling for an event at which I was supposed to give a talk (as it happens Sr. Kathleen Deignan and a few scholars from her college, Iona College, were also on the plane — as she walked by us to board she talked with me and introduced me to the other professors, and I think this fellow standby gentleman realized I was supposed to be with that group.

So, even as things seem to be crazy and stressful and anxiety-producing (as my experiences at airports have been recently — perhaps a post for another day), the kindness of strangers can make all the difference. Although I don’t know your name, I am very grateful for your kindness! I hope you made it to your destination shortly after.

For more on this weekend’s conference, you can check out Lousiville.com, on which the event appeared as a front-page news item yesterday.

Photo: Stock

2 Comments

  1. Wow, that guy certainly proved to understand how to be a “lesser brother” in a situation where he did not have to be. Dan, I am often shocked by the generosity of strangers all of the time. I recently had two totally different occasions where my bank debit card was not working on the first couple of tries, and total strangers kindly offered to pay for my purchases (about $5 in each case). Luckily, my card worked with a little help from a plastic bag, but I was still moved by the willingness of people at these rural stores–who did not appear to have money to spare–willing to minister to me. God is so good!

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