When was the last time you went on errands and saw someone who was struggling in any way…and just passed them by? When did you last see a mom with a crying baby in the grocery store, trying to check out with multiple bags and a whiny toddler at hand? When was the last time you were out at a ballgame, a school event or anywhere really, and you saw someone overwhelmed or needing help and you looked the other way? Oh my friends, haven’t we all done that? I know I have.
There are days when I am frazzled or tired or I am solely focused on an urgent ‘something’ that I rush by a person in need. There are also days where I not only turn away but, instead pass a glaring judgmental stare in the direction of that person who distracts my attention and makes me *God forbid* late. I moan or sigh or mentally criticize their plight…as I begrudgingly walk away. For that, I am ashamed and convicted.
There are also times when I feel a deep sense of compassion and take the time to offer help or encouragement to a poor soul in need. Those are the times I love. Especially when my kids are with me. They too, need to learn the art of humanity. The biblical truth:
Love Thy Neighbor.
I have been the recipient of both…and the giver of both. I have also been the giver and recipient of NOT Loving Thy Neighbor…
The looks and judgment when I had a baby screaming in my stroller and a toddler stripped down naked in a full-throttle tantrum at Target. Ah…the memories of that lovely desperate excursion. Not one helping hand, but many passing glares and appalling stares.
I remember my sweet girl knocking over a lava lamp at a lovely uptown boutique, while all the shoppers stared in disbelief as the gooey insides of glitter spewed all over the other merchandise and I frantically tried to clean it up. The owner was gracious to us both and helped clean it up while I started to cry realizing it was EVERYWHERE and more people started to crowd and stare. Not one person in the crowd helped me.
You all know how it feels when you are struggling in any way, and a person comes in to help, acknowledge, affirm, encourage, sacrifice and serve… those moments always find there way forever embedded in my heart.
~The store owner who stated in front of a crowd of horrified people that it was asthmatic and not contagious when my three-year-old was in a severe asthmatic flare, throwing up from coughing so violently.
~The man who came over and took my cart at the grocery store, when I had a screaming baby to wrestle into the car seat.
~The kind words of a stranger telling me what a great job I did, helping out at the recital.
~ An amazing encouraging message from another blogger given at just the right time.
Oh how there are so many more times when I felt loved, cared for, and noticed. How about you? I’m sure you have those unexpected amazingly beautiful moments where someone loved you as well. It’s a powerful and wondrous thing to receive that “neighborly love”.
There are also those times when I choose to “Go And Do”. Those times are such a valuable lesson to us all.
When our family was out to eat and a family in a booth near ours had a mishap. The little boy spilled his drink all over the table and onto the floor and himself and his food. He started to cry. It was quite a debacle. The conversation with my daughter went something like this:
“Oh, that poor boy is crying now! It reminds me of when you knocked that lava lamp over Cassidy.”
“Oh, that was awful…”
“Why don’t you go tell the boy about how you did that to make him feel better!”
“I am embarrassed mom!”
“Well, I understand that honey. But wouldn’t that be a kind thing to do?”
“Yeah.” As she looked in the boy’s direction with her compassionate eyes and hesitating anticipation.
“Go on… you can do it, sweetie!”
“Okay. I am so embarrassed…”
And she slowly meandered with an awkward stance, over to the table surprising the family with her tale. She looked uncomfortable and shy, but she did it. Quickly shuffling back to our table as her face showed great relief and joy for accomplishing her mission.
I then went over and added my “mom story” to encourage the family and explain more to the event of the broken lava lamp. And to that, we like to think that boy was noticed, encouraged, and comforted by our attention and the family might have been too.
Then there was the time when we were doing last minute grocery shopping on New Year’s Eve day along with about four million others. We were at the check out line and after we left, I noticed a struggling mom with a crying baby and a young girl trying to get through the check out line with all kinds of groceries. To that, I stopped our cart amidst the flowing shoppers and told my kids about her.
“Are we going to help her mommy?” Yes, indeed we were. As others rushed by with their mission, we waited and watched. Finally the mom with the baby was on her way, but of course, she had to stop to put the baby back in the car seat and the nice patient young girl needed her coat on.
I approached her and as I often like to do (on a good day). I told her how awesome she was to manage the kids and do the grocery shopping. She smiled and we offered her our assistance getting her groceries to the car. She politely declined, but I do believe her spirit was a little lighter having been noticed and encouraged.
And then there’s the in between… neglecting the call, and the remorse and redemption in a second chance. How many of you have had a second chance at loving a neighbor? A third? A fourth?
I was on a quick errand to the grocery to pick up one forgotten item. I was in hurry and staring down my goal with that focused “get out of my way” intention. I raced into my parking space and flew into the store. But on my way, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a mom pushing her handicapped son in an enormous wheelchair and a cart full of groceries.
It nudged at my heart and I felt my soul open into tiny little pieces of compassion. I immediately pulled myself away from that heart piercing pull, telling myself I don’t have time to help her. As I ran through the store my soul still ached deeply by ignoring my heart’s cry. But I stuck with my mission. On my way out to my car, I immediately saw her still attempting to get her groceries in the car now that her son was finally realigned in his car seat.
I threw my bag in the car and walked straight over to her and blurted out:
“Can I hug you?”
To that, she opened her arms and started to say it’s been a difficult day. Her voice was light and her spirit was calm. Her strength was inspiring and her perseverance amazing. I told her that. She thanked me.
It wasn’t enough.
But it was something.
I was so relieved and grateful she was still in the parking lot when I came out. Never again will I dismiss my heart’s leading. I will keep reminding myself that compassion is so much better than dismissing the of others.
I tend to be one of those people to readily observe others in my whereabouts. I can tune in and tune out just as easily. And each time I have a choice: To turn toward or turn away. Not only to those in need but to those who appear before me and give me an opportunity to attend to them, acknowledge them, notice them. What if we all made an intentional choice to love thy neighbor?
In our own little worlds around us, our own corner of the world…
What if we all tried harder? Just a little bit harder?
A polite compliment. A gentle smile. A passing hello. A helping hand. A hug. A listening ear. Perhaps simply an acknowledgment and a compliment.
It really doesn’t take much time. Or energy. And although we may still choose to ignore, dismiss, judge, or neglect those who cross our paths… we always have a new chance, we always a new opportunity every single day…
To love our neighbor.
The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other commands there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Romans 13:9 NIV