Last night at our local grocery store, I perkily said to the cashier, “I hope you had a great Christmas!” and she responded dully, “Actually it was terrible. My kids were at their dad’s so I was alone.”
I prefer this response to “It was fine” when things are not fine. She risked sharing real life with me and most people don’t do this with friends, much less with strangers. I thanked her and she probably thought I was talking about bagging my pears and cheese.
I’ve been thinking about the battles people fight that we know nothing about. Some battles are hidden and kept to ourselves. Depression. Addiction. Underemployment. Bitterness. Loneliness. Debt. Demons. Chronic Pain. Regret. Existential Despair. Honestly everyone is fighting something deep within and it distracts us and impairs our perspective. We are usually too busy or disengaged to notice. At least that’s me.
What if we approached each day with the attitude that people basically need to be loved? What if our default attitude was respect and honor towards strangers?
For the last two and a half years, I have witnessed – almost daily – uncommon kindness on public transportation in Chicago. I have watched people pay for bus passes when strangers had no money. I’ve observed people giving up their seats for others. I’ve noticed people dropping bills into the milk crates of subway performers. Who knew that I’d experience the Holy Spirit on the CTA?
The Light of Christ has come but the world is still dark. What if we paid closer attention and listened better? What if we looked upon each other with compassion? Because everyone we meet is fighting a battle we know nothing about.
*Patrick Evans is one of the treasures of my denomination. The image is from the Chicago Transit Authority.