Pope Francis’ trip to the U.S. in September moved so many hearts. But the moment of that trip that stands out to me is when he caught sight of a young, disabled boy, stopped the Pope Mobile and walked over to kiss and bless the boy. That small act — taking no more than a few minutes — left an indelible mark of hope and love on the boy, his family and the countless number of people that read about it. This profound impact only occurred because Pope Francis was aware of the people around him and open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta consistently spoke of this need to be aware of how God could love others through us. She said, “Spread love everywhere you go…Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.”
So what’s stopping us from being this love, being God’s kindness, to those around us?
I know that for me, I’m so wrapped up in my phone that I can barely avoid running into people, let alone being aware enough to sense how God might want to bless them through me. Maybe you’re like me: your head down and eyes locked on your device, instead of seeing the world around you.
What if we took Pope Francis’ and Saint Mother Teresa’s lessons to heart? What if we followed the advice of the viral video to “Look up from Your Phone” and kept our eyes up and our hearts open to the needs of the people around us?
This little shift in our awareness can be a huge game-changer. With open eyes and hearts ready to respond, God can use us to bless the people we encounter in small (or big) ways.
Last year, I was at a metro station (yes, many of my stories happen on the metro) when a woman offered me a CD recording of a sermon her pastor gave. As we talked, I learned her son was attending community college and wanted to go to a university, but they couldn’t afford it.
I told her about the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, an amazing organization that awards scholarships to community college students so they can transfer to four-year institutions. During the next two weeks before the scholarship deadline (providential timing!), I worked with her son on his application and learned their family’s amazing story of resiliency and sacrifice. Later, I found out that he received the scholarship and would be attending an Ivy League university!
Think about it. A five-minute conversation had led to a full-tuition scholarship and opportunities this young man could not have imagined before.
But there’s more…
The best part of this story is that God wants to write stories like this every day of our lives. God wants to use our hands, our words, our smiles and our laughter to show people His love. But to be this gift requires attentiveness and space.
We need to be present. I’m by no means against social media or smart phones, but we can’t see the people around us and sense their needs if we’re too caught up in our Facebook feeds and Candy Crush. We also need to be present to the Holy Spirit and how it might be moving us to talk to or serve someone.
We also need space. If we’re rushing from one event to the next, we won’t have that five-minute or 30-second cushion to interrupt our own plans and just be present for someone else.
I Guarantee It…
If you allow it, God will direct you to people that He specifically wants to bless through you, just like Pope Francis to that disabled boy. When I’ve kept my eyes up and prayed that God would guide me, I’ve gotten to do things like give up my seat on the metro, carry suitcases when an escalator wasn’t working, balance a huge box of fruit baskets in my arms for an overwhelmed intern, and help the elderly walk to their destination.
These might seem like small things — but in our increasingly isolated world, such small acts of love reconnect us, remind us of our shared humanity and inspire others. As Saint Teresa knew, even something as simple as a smile can change hearts and lives.
Perhaps more importantly, “looking up” changes us. When we are living with open eyes to see how God wants to use us to bless others, we stop thinking about ourselves and stop looking at people based on how attractive, well-off or cool they appear. Instead, we start seeing them with God’s eyes and loving them with His heart.
So then — look up! What amazing story is God trying to write through you today?