A friend had driven into the city to attend a concert. Traffic had forced the cars to slog along, barely moving down the city streets. Suddenly a young boy, surely no older than ten, jaywalked across her car’s path. He turned and raised his middle finger as he crossed in front of her car.
Put yourself in her place; what is your knee-jerk reaction to this? Anger? Disgust? Disbelief? Fear? Indignation? Contempt? Loathing?
Most of us would likely feel a combination of some of these.
How many of us would have the immediate response of love?
I have to be honest; not me.
Yet I’m in the process of re-reading Minding the Body, Mending the Mind by Dr. Joan Borysenko. It just so happens something similar happened to the author once.
She too was behind the wheel and was stopped at a traffic light. The car next to her pulled a bit ahead so that the young boy in the backseat was within her line of sight. He too gave Dr. B. the finger.
She ignored her gut reaction and instead reframed the situation to wonder why a child would feel the need to display contempt toward a stranger. Maybe he hadn’t been well-cared for or well-loved. Perhaps his daily life was a steady diet of negativity, coarseness, and insolence.
And so, in the reactive moment, she gathered within herself all the love and forgiveness she could find. She smiled and put forth that positive caring energy toward the boy. The red light turned to green, the cars moved on, and he was gone.
No, the story doesn’t have a miraculous Facebook happy ending. The child didn’t write down her license tag and years later track her down to share how the silent exchange turned around his life, and that he now devoted his life caring for the needy.
But what if?
What if that tiny moment’s silent interaction in his life made a difference to him?
Here’s the truth: Most of the time we will NOT know how our words and actions affect those with whom we have contact, whether that contact is brief or prolonged and intense.
“You are born into the world and will probably never know to whose prayers your life is the answer.”
What powerful words! That’s a whole sermon in one sentence.
We have to ask ourselves, “How will I live if my life is to be the answer to someone’s prayers?”
Love is the first answer.
Because if we first love as we are loved, then everything else falls into place: compassion, empathy, forgiveness, the courage to seek justice, the willingness to help….
You can fill in the blanks for what you consider the rest of the “good stuff.”
But love is the first answer.
♥An aside….The “you are born into the world…” quote above is my hands-down favorite quote of all time. I wrote it down long ago and attributed it to the Scottish Baptist evangelist and teacher Oswald Chambers. However, searching online I cannot find these exact words. I nearly let the anxiety over proper attribution stop me from sharing them.
I did find a quote from him as follows: “I have the unspeakable knowledge that my life is the answer to prayers…God is blessing me and making me a blessing.” So maybe my favorite quote just didn’t make it online to be found.
Chambers died at the young age of 43 from complications of an appendectomy. It’s interesting to note that the books that are published under his name were compiled by his wife from the shorthand notes she took of his many talks. His words would have been lost forever if not for his wife! Millions of people today read the daily devotionals based on his book My Utmost for His Highest.