I sat on a slightly worn blue seat on the city’s transportation system. In my ears buzzed an old episode of This American Life I hadn’t gotten around to listening to yet.
It had been a busy day at work, racking to meet deadlines and urging myself to relive what was an awful interview a second time as I transcribed it. I let my thoughts take me away to a place called nowhere until suddenly, the subconscious sneakily takes over, lulling me into a blissful state of merely being.
But a sight from my window seat pulled me back to reality.
I saw the back of a man with scraggly grey hair wearing a blue shirt. I couldn’t see his arms at first until I realized they were occupied, holding a sign in front of him which I couldn’t read, but knew contained a meager petition for either money or a meal — perhaps both.
It has never been my prerogative to judge anyone, to be critical of the who, the where, or the why of their life. Yet every day I find myself feeling falsely entitled to pass judgment on behalf of another. Sometimes it’s done out of humor. Sometime it’s done out of arrogance. Every time, the deed is accompanied by a silent shame, and a subtle regret.
Today, before I could improperly slam my proverbial gavel down on the harsh bench of judgment, something happened, jerking me out of my tranquilized state.
Another man and his son walked out of the shopping complex together. The father handed his phone to the son, and posed for a picture.
The silent man with the blue shirt and the scraggly hair, unnoticed by the hundreds who read his sign and drop their eyes took four steps to the side, removing himself from the picture and remaining unnoticed.
The smartphone captured the moment and father and son walked away, oblivious to what had transpired in the last four seconds.
Quietly, the blue-shirted man resumed his place and his stance, hoping to be seen by the hundreds that would surely walk his way the rest of the evening.
I found myself hoping that someone would notice him. Acknowledge him. Show him some token of love.
Regardless of how he had arrived in that spot in that stance, he was a child of God. And I haven’t wanted a stranger to be infused with the same knowledge so strongly in a long time.
How grateful I am to a God who notices all of us, who loves us perfectly.
The Good Shepherd who knows his sheep has proven to me personally that I am numbered among that flock.
I cannot say why this scene moved me the way it did. But it sent my thoughts into a flurry and set a lump in my throat.
I’m left with the memory of that moment, and the words of the Master ringing through my heart and my head.
“In as much as ye have done it unto the least of these my bretheren, ye have done it unto me.”