I was caught in one of our congested city’s dreaded traffic jams. The endless line of cars, trucks, and buses was crawling forward at barely a walking pace, while pedestrians, motorbikes, and bicycles managed to make a bit of headway, weaving between the lanes. The polluted air was heavy with the fumes of exhaust, and I felt sick to my stomach. With lips pursed in impatience, I observed the puddle-strewn unpaved sidewalk, still muddy from a recent downpour, and amongst the vendors displaying secondhand wares, fruits, and vegetables on tarps, I spotted a crippled beggar boy, not older than seven, holding out his hand.
It was a typical Monday morning, and my husband and I were in town on business for the humanitarian aid project we operate in several Balkan nations. By 10 am it was already getting quite hot. The afternoon was supposed to be even hotter and more uncomfortable, so we were trying to finish everything on our to-do list by noon.
On my birthday, I often experience mixed feelings—on the one hand, I wish I could escape to a lonely island; on the other hand, the extra attention does feel good. Either way, I’ll say with Todd Stocker: “A happy birthday is measured not in the amount of gifts one gets, but in the amount one is loved.”
Paolo, a dear friend and colleague of mine for the last 18 years, has made it a point and a personal goal to remember people’s birthdays either through a phone call or an SMS. He keeps a list and updates it as he meets new people.
I was watching an interview last Sunday, and the guest was asked, “What’s the greatest need in the world today?” Without hesitation, he responded, “Empathy. The world needs more empathy.”
I probably would have responded, without thinking, that the world needs more love. But I liked his answer. It was much more specific to say that the world needs more empathy.
When I think back on my unforgettable freshman semester in college, an image of a six-foot-five, lanky fellow with longish black hair comes to mind. Steve was a senior in my department, but we first met in a General Education course. He won my admiration by joining me in the front row, the spot avoided by most students. Although I barely recognized him, having only seen him a few times in the department office, he acknowledged me with a nod.
There’s an important and easily missed form of love that’s manifested in the small matters. For example, helping a person in need, preferring them over ourselves, showing sympathy when someone is stressed or worried, offering a prayer, or being a listening and sympathetic ear.
My prayer is that in all the busyness of life, in the abundance of urgent needs and priorities, we don’t lose sight of how important love is—both in the big picture and in our daily choices and priorities. Sometimes we forget that all our accomplishments are nothing without love.
Have you ever had a bad day just because you crossed paths with someone who was in a foul mood? Maybe it was someone on the bus or another customer in a store—someone who you normally wouldn’t have even noticed—but that one grumpy or inconsiderate person cast a pall on your whole day.