Kindred Spirits

Read: Proverbs 27:19

Just as water reflects the face, so one human heart reflects another (Proverbs 27:19, NRSV).

Every now and then I have occasion to pass through Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. I’ll be walking along, hurrying to get to my departure gate when I see someone I recognize. “What an amazing coincidence,” I think. I smile. I wave. Sometimes I even call out their name. But then the puzzled expression on their face tells me that the recognition is not mutual, and I find myself issuing a non-verbal apology that can be understood in any language.

Maybe I’m a slow learner, but this game of Schiphol “gotcha” catches me off guard every time. When I realized that it only seems to happen to me in Amsterdam, I began to work out what was going on. I live in Holland, Michigan. Could genetics be behind my false sense of recognition? What if the person I think is my next door neighbor is actually a distant relative of my next door neighbor? Of course, I’ll never know, since I can’t very well run around asking perfect strangers for DNA samples. But it’s a theory.

I’m not sure there is any explanation for the kind of recognition described in Proverbs 27:19, however. Just as water reflects the face, so one human heart reflects another. We know it’s true. It’s a “thing.” But how it works is one of life’s most wonderful mysteries. Sometimes the connection we feel to another is instantaneous; sometimes it grows gradually over time. Sometimes it lasts a lifetime; sometimes only for a few minutes. But it is real, and this proverb testifies to the fact that it has been a thing for a very long time.

To be clear, I’m not talking about what people refer to as love at first sight. Maybe this phenomenon is related, but more often than not, love at first sight is three parts projection and one part connection. (We could quibble about percentages, but you get my point.) Especially in romantic situations, we tend to see what we want to see, and we discover our mistake later to our sorrow. Once in a while, however, if we are very, very fortunate, that initial sense of seeing and being seen proves to be absolutely spot on.

Some years ago I found myself at a small reception after a worship service. I had no great expectations of this event. As an introvert, such situations make me uncomfortable, and this was no exception. My plan was to make short work of my prosecco, pay my respects to the host, and beat a hasty retreat.

But then I saw someone sitting all alone by the fireplace, and compassion overcame my inner introvert. I walked over and introduced myself. Imagine my surprise when ten minutes later, I found myself deep in conversation with one of the most delightful people I had ever met. What’s more, it was not just a superficial conversation. In ten minutes it felt like we had covered more ground than some people cover in ten years. We might be talking still if our host had not interrupted and insisted on dragging me over to meet someone else. I left my new friend reluctantly, thinking, “Just as water reflects the face, so one human heart reflects another.”

What makes this story so unique is that I have had the opportunity to follow this person’s work over time. (He and his partner broadcast a morning prayer service that I “attend” every day.) It has given me a rare opportunity to confirm my first impressions. We really are what Anne of Green Gables would call, “kindred spirits.”

I don’t know how this works. I don’t know why it works. I only rejoice that in this weird and wonderful world, it does work. And when it does, it is pure gift.

Ponder: Have you ever experienced this kind of “kindred spirit” recognition with someone?


For the joy of ear and eye, for the heart and mind’s delight,

For the mystic harmony linking sense to sound and sight:

Lord of all, to thee we raise this, our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of human love, brother, sister, parent, child,

Friends on earth, and friends above, for all gentle thoughts and mild,

Lord of all, to thee we raise this, our hymn of grateful praise.


From the hymn, “For the Beauty of the Earth”; words by Folliott S. Pierpont, 1864.