“… his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled…. (Mat 9:36).
Archbishop Fulton Sheen said that evil is always like a brick through a window. But kindness can be like that, too: coming from nowhere when you least expect it.
At a Starbucks in Madison, Wisconsin, where I was visiting family this week, the clerk, Leah, asked what kind of day I was having. I said it was a strange day. “Strange as in?” she asked. I hesitated. “I’m going over to visit my sick mom, likely for the last time.”
She told me how sorry she was to hear about my mother, assured me of her prayers, and as I reached into my wallet, she added, “It’s on the house.”
Her kind words came crashing through my windowpane of self-protection and by the time I reached the parking lot, I was crying. A business transaction had, through her compassion, become a profound gift of one heart to another in a time of need.
Jesus always took time to notice other people and reach out with healing hands and a healing word. We can do that, too, but it requires the freedom to get outside ourselves. Leah was free from the two biggest obstacles to love: self-absorption and fear. She was free to be Jesus to me at a crucial moment.
Self-absorption keeps us from love because we fail to notice someone in need. Jesus knew it when a woman outside his range of vision reached out to touch the tassel of his cloak. And fear blocks love when we worry about the response we will get if we reach out to someone we don’t know. Jesus let a scandalous woman publicly anoint his feet with her tears.
Leah’s open heart opened my heart up, too—not only to tears, but to ask God, “What does my mother need from me now and what would I regret not having said?” The answer came quickly: she needs to be reminded of her good qualities and you need to say it.
Touched by Leah’s generosity (and spurred on by espresso), I was able to escape self-pity and embrace the freedom to tell my mom all the things I admire about her.
And another gift followed. As I recounted my mother’s gifts and strengths, childhood memories of laughter and tenderness came to mind, which I look forward to sharing with her by phone until God takes her from the arms of her beloved husband and claims her all for Himself.