I am writing today from Washington, DC, where I am attending a meeting of Catholic sisters and associates for the next few days. I had an interesting experience getting here.

Yesterday I flew in from Chicago to Baltimore and took public transportation to Washington Theological Union where our meeting is taking place. I’ve done the public transportation thing before when I lived in Washington 10 years ago so I figured it wouldn’t be that difficult. But things change, memory fails, and the morning of my travels I realized I had no idea how to get from the airport to WTU. I looked at airport and cit maps, bus and train schedules but was running out of time to figure it out. On a whim, I did a quick search online for specific instructions on how to take public transportation from BWI to WTU. Lo and behold, I found a document from someone who is “a bi-weekly commuter to DC from Rochester, NY”. I have no idea who this person is but the instructions were so clear — and accurate as it turned out — that I thought I’d give it a shot. Plus the person is from Rochester (my home town) and goes to WTU (where I had taken a class) so I figured it was a good sign!

I printed off the instructions and from the moment I stepped off the airplane I felt like I was in the hands of a total stranger, hoping to God that the instructions “worked”. And by God they did. Every step of the way, I knew what to do and how to do it — where to pick up the bus, how much it would cost, where it would drop me off, how to exchange trains, etc.

All the while I kept thinking about this unknown traveling companion of mine, this person whose care in writing up those instructions and posting them online had saved me and delivered me safely to my destination.

For me this person was an angel of sorts, someone who was present to me in a behind-the-scenes kind of way, someone who with care reached out, not even know the persons she or he would be helping.

As I reflect on this experience, I am amazed at how much this experience speaks of what ministry is, of being able to give of one’s gifts and talents even when we don’t know how these might be received in the world, of giving without expecting a return, and of being present to others in something as simple as explaining how to get from point A to point B.

In what ways have you experienced an “unknown companion” in your life?