I went into the mall and happily did my shopping, but upon returning, I noticed from afar that the parking garage was no longer empty, there were now two cars, and the new car had pulled into the spot next to mine. No need to worry, though, right? As I came closer I noted that the car was not just in the spot next to mine, it had pulled in at an angle. Looking through the window, it was obviously the car of a young person, who was either in a hurry or was just parking as they would in the city. As I said, the car was at an angle, such that I could barely open the driver's side door when it was time to get in. I had to squeeze through the opening to get into the driver's seat. As the youngest of 8 children, I was used to squeezing and contorting to fit into small or unusual spaces. So, using all of that training, I was able to fit through the space and into the car. I have to admit that I was not overly cautious about the car next door, the only other car in the lot, and (probably) banged it a couple of times as I got in. I have thought of this more than once this week here in Illinois, as I pull into parking spots with my Buick, thinking I will be over the line or on it, and seeing that I have almost a yard of space on either side.
Some friends of mine from some years back had become unsatisfied with their Congregation, and were seeking a new Church. When I suggested they might stop by for Mass at a local Catholic parish, they responded that they were uncomfortable with touching, and didn't want to go to Church someplace where they had to touch others. Even the sign of peace was too much interpersonal contact for them.
Many people are known for hugging, or for kissing both cheeks, or for shaking hands. Some are more comfortable with this personal closeness, was it Seinfeld who popularized reference to the ever present close talker? Apparently this also includes parking close. Others hold back, not wanting to be part of even normal human interaction. Some of this may be due to cultural background (the couple above was from a Nordic background), some to familial upbringing, some to life experiences, have been victims of crimes, or shun personal contact because of other factors. In the past I have had the custom of omitting the sign of peace at Mass during Advent and Lent (coincidentally also Cold and Flu season), and been surprised at how many people will thank me, people who shake someone's hand if it is required of them at Mass, but who otherwise would prefer not to make this contact.
There has been much controversy in recent months about security screening at airports, involving agents of the TSA, Argenbright security, or others. I have never had an inordinate problem with airport security, but am very pleased I had a rod removed from my leg a year after it had healed. I can certainly sympathize with those who have felt that their personal space has been invaded during such processes, and I fear that many of the problems are at the level of policy, which then imposes a difficult framework upon all: normal people who want to travel, security workers, police, and others.
The great majority of us cannot do anything on the level of policy, and indeed, clearly, even good people have great differences of opinion regarding such policies. In our daily lives, though, we often have to learn to adapt. An American who moves to Italy or Japan has to become used to being thrust together with all kinds of other people, in buses, on the street, or even in parking garages. We must sometimes learn to be around people whose customs are different from ours. We can also learn to be aware of the personal space of others, especially those who are particularly sensitive in this area. In our lives as Christians, we do have to learn when to bend.
Bishop Sheen was visiting a mission country and was brought to visit the 500 residents of a leper colony. He wanted to give everyone a religious medal to encourage their faith, he said, but as he met he first leper, who held up his emaciated hand, he dropped the medal onto the stump of a hand, and it fell upon the ground. Bishop Sheen said at that moment there were no longer 500 lepers there, but 501, as he had not met the spiritual challenge. He picked up the medal and pressed it into the leper's hand.
Whether or not you are a tactile person, or rather aloof, ask God for the strength to go beyond your own personal boundaries to serve others through Him, and be confident in his grace.