Contact Tracing

Another new phrase spawned by the coronavirus pandemic is “contact tracing.” The state of Virginia is hiring 1,600 contact tracers to track the movements of people infected with COVID-19. Those who test positive are interviewed to reconstruct their movements and associations since falling ill. It is a tedious and sometimes lengthy process.

But let’s put contact tracing in a different light. I hereby issue the “contact tracing challenge”: Take a mental journey through your personal history and see where contact tracing takes you. Who has influenced your life in a significant way? Who was a catalyst to take your life in a new, unexpected direction? Who became a gateway to other friends or associates who then impacted your development?

I’ll start (forgive the personal focus):

1) As a senior in high school, I was completely uncertain of my life’s direction after graduation. A new preacher came to our little congregation, and his son was entering the University of South Florida in the fall and needed a roommate. I left for Tampa at age 17 and shared an apartment with Wayne and Tom.

2) Wayne’s girlfriend at the time was Karen, and she took this awkward, homesick teenager under her wing and introduced me to some of her friends, one of whom was Sammy. Sammy and I traveled a lot – skiing in Colorado, driving the California 101 coastal highway and sharing many other adventures. We were in each other’s weddings and are friends to this day.

3) While at USF, the preacher where I worshiped was the most dynamic, interesting, personable and intelligent man I had ever met. Without even being aware of his influence, John altered my career path from criminal justice to evangelism.

4) After I began preaching full time, my mother and a close friend in my home congregation connived to set me up on a blind date with the sister’s granddaughter, Melanie.

5) As Melanie and I began dating, another person from my past, Howard, persuaded me to move to Ohio to work with a small congregation near Youngstown. Through such networking, my life began to blossom with marriage, kingdom work and our first child.

That little bit of contact tracing doesn’t begin to cover the threads of people and places woven into the fabric of my life. But I hope it will kickstart your own reflections and by them you will gain a greater appreciation of the providence of God that has blessed your life. I also hope it will encourage you to consider the impact you have on others.

Sometimes the smallest act of kindness or expression of support can touch someone’s soul and change the trajectory of their life. “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward” (Matt. 10:42).