As a New Yorker, I tend to keep my head down. Apart from the times when I break down from cold or exhaustion and hail a cab, for the most part, I walk everywhere I go. My children in tow like little ducklings, my voice click clicking every now and then to grab their attention before we cross another intersection, or to make them aware of others in the opposite "lane" on the sidewalk. I am rarely ever alone. Within the confines of my apartment building with neighbors above and below and on both sides- and certainly not outside, where others, just like me, join the masses in coffee shops or subway cars, each of us on our way to somewhere.
So you see, what is often misinterpreted as rudeness or hurry is simply a commute. We brush past others with focused attention, head down in the business of getting places on our feet instead of behind a wheel. It's all we can do to avert our eyes and get a moment of peace.
The trouble with me is, I can often forget to look up again.
Sometimes I need an outside perspective to help me learn again to focus outwardly- to initiate love to those around me in even the simplest of ways.
This Fall, my sweet friend Sally came to visit. On her last morning with us we walked with her to our local coffee shop. Earlier in the week, she had thoughtfully given each of my children a gift card and an invitation to join her for a special date. My children's eyes were wide as they reached out to grab mugs of hot cocoa from the barista, and their hearts were brimming over at the joy of spending time with "Miss Sally" as they began pouring out their hearts to her as she asked them questions about their thoughts and what they valued.
Our laughter as well as the size of our group drew the attention of a young man sitting alone, and he smiled. I smiled back, but my New York sensibility kicked in and I quickly withdrew my gaze and focused back on our little troupe.
But not Miss Sally.
With natural ease, she introduced herself, and began to connect with this stranger. Simple questions, eye contact, a listening ear and genuine interest evoked such warmth in this man. He opened up his heart to us and shared about his aspirations in New York as an actor, his love of the arts, and travel, and people... and even about his family history and childhood. There was so much in common between us, we all exchanged email addresses and had hopes of connecting with him in the future. We left as friends.
But before we said goodbye he commented on our kindness, on something different about us that he couldn't quite put his finger on. My children chatted all the way home about how maybe what he saw in us was Jesus, maybe what he felt was real true love and friendship and they were on the hunt for ways to love again and again.
And, I, their mama, almost hadn't even looked up.
When we choose to initiate, to extend kindness and listen and look, it's like my sweet friend Sally says in her book,
"When we love others, we are simply reflecting the undeserved grace that we have received."
Loving truly can be as simple as being the one person who says hello. Being one who listens, who draws out stories and ideas in the safety of your smile and care.
Loving can look like making dinner again and again, fluffing pillows to cozy up a bed, comforting a child after a nightmare or a sharp fall or just because it's the time of day to kiss their head and whisper a blessing. Loving can be big, but is often small. It's often chosen in moments when we'd rather be looking down and focusing on ourselves.
Loving with the grace we've received also means going first.
A love that extends beyond ourselves, that initiates and pursues and gives freely? That's the love our world will see as something all together "other" and they will wonder where it comes from. It's the way you shine Jesus.
How will you look up today friends?
Praying that we each shine love,
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