As with most Mondays, I follow Rachel to work in the mornings. She drives the kids to preschool, then we go to work. Sometimes We leave home at about the same time, sometimes I follow by a few minutes. Today, I was right behind her all the way.
The first time we reached a stoplight, I pulled up very close behind her. Closer than I would normally do in traffic.
Closer than I am comfortable when I look in my rearview mirror and see someone else.
This was not exactly like normal traffic, though. I was driving behind a person I know and who knows me. Once the light changed, I gave her appropriate lead time, and followed at a safe distance.
After I had pulled that close, though, I became a little uncomfortable with what I had done. I wondered how analogous driving patterns are for personal relationships.
You know: people have very different senses of personal space! I remember particularly a professor I worked with at one point in my academic life. He was, what we called, a space invader.
For normal conversation, he would stand within a foot of me. Though I never felt threatened or endangered in any way, standing this close to a professional acquaintance was uncomfortable for me.
Thankfully, I was a good 6 inches taller than he, so could find space by looking up a little.
In addition to these, I’ve come to notice many different ways we live in space relationship with others.
Just yesterday, in fact, a variant: I entered the sanctuary well before the next worship service and proceeded to greet the few people who were already there. As I approached one, he asked if he could talk to me briefly. I said yes, and as he stood he said, relatively quietly, that this was confidential.
I leaned in a little and nodded to indicate my understanding.
Then, with a raised voice (to normal conversation level, but clearly loud enough for others to hear), he proceeded to tell me what he had to say.
I thought about asking if he was familiar with the word “confidential,” but choose not to.
What he meant, I think, was that he was telling me this “for my own good,” and not for me to tell others.
I had moved close enough to listen, only to find out I really hadn’t needed to get closer at all.
How sensitive are you to the space around you, and the distances you maintain from others?