It was a rainy day, and I hadn’t slept very well the night before. I had a number of things on my mind, including possible layoffs at work. We were told that twelve of our staff were going to be laid off, and today was the day for notification.
This was a program in which I had worked for seventeen years. The idea of looking for another job daunted me, and the stress affected each employee. When I arrived at work, we kidded each other about “getting the call.” This was our way of dealing with a difficult situation. I had always thought of the day I would retire, and I always hoped they would have a small party and everyone would come to say goodbye. I would gush about how much joy the job had given me and talk to members attending the party.
I’ll admit, I am a bit embarrassed as I reveal this dream. I am afraid my ego worked overtime. Being quietly told I was out work over the phone wasn’t the way I wanted to end seventeen years of work. However, knowing the administrators in our program, I expected the layoff would be handled with compassion and sensitivity, although it still wasn’t what I had planned for my life.
I could only focus on myself that day. I still did my tasks, but in the back of my mind, I constantly worried about “getting the call.” I ran around doing different tasks to occupy my body, going from one building to another, while my mind continually buzzed and whirred. I saw one of the members in our program outside the door. He, too, appeared to be focused on internal stimuli and looked like he wasn’t aware of anything except his inner world. As I walked by, I figured he wouldn’t even know I was there.
However, I felt I should greet him and acknowledge his presence. I smiled and said, “Hello, John.”
His head went up and his eyes were filled with love and happiness. He was thrilled that someone noticed him! He had the biggest smile and looked me straight in the eyes and said, “It will be okay, Cindy. God loves you.”
It felt as if Jesus Himself said those words to me. I was totally taken off guard and touched. How could John possibly know the stress I was under? How could he know those were the exact words I needed to hear? I looked at him and smiled. “Thank you, John. I know He does.”
Thinking back on it, now, I wish I had been more appreciative and thanked him for sharing those exact words I needed to hear. Oh, well; hindsight is 20/20. Yet, John made me focus on what was truly important. He reminded me God is with me, loves me, and would make things all right.
I do not take credit for speaking to John. Something'”or someone'”urged me to treat him with respect and acknowledge his presence. Maybe that voice was the Holy Spirit. Maybe it was Jesus. I don’t know. I do know it helped me remember Mother Theresa’s belief that, when we try and help the poorest of the poor, we are helping Jesus. If I had not greeted John, I would have missed an opportunity to see Jesus. By the way, as it turned out, I wasn’t asked to leave my job! Thanks be to God!
How many times during our day do we pass co-workers or friends and not acknowledge their presence? Many times we become so involved with our own problems and stress that we find it hard to look past our little part of the world. How many times do we pass someone who is homeless and fail to acknowledge them?
Many times I want to say hello to people I don’t know, but I sometimes worry they might not accept me. There is a member in our program who speaks to everyone when she goes into a restaurant. Of course, that probably isn’t appropriate, but spiritually, I think she has more wisdom than most of us. She sees everyone as her brother and sister. Isn’t that what Jesus calls us to do? As a society, we don’t have the same spiritual maturity that she does. I feel sad telling her that some people might not appreciate having her visit their table and to say hello, because I think it is wonderful that she wants to do that.
Some cultures bow to each other as a sign of respect and holiness. I love the Jewish tradition of saying, “Shalom.” I also think it is wonderful when we give the kiss of peace in the Catholic mass. I wish I could approach everyone I see and say, “Peace be with you,” or bow to each person, or say, “Shalom.” As a world we aren’t ready for that.Perhapes we can do some small things each day to make the people we meet feel welcomed.