Earlier this week I boarded a Greyhound bus heading from Charlotte, NC to Philadelphia, PA. Surprisingly, it was my first time ever traveling on a commercial bus that wasn’t part of a guided tour. Since I love all forms of travel, I figured I would embrace the Greyhound experience. The Express bus had extra leg room, free Wi-fi and the ability to plug in a laptop. I can’t even do that on a plane! Like most stations and terminals, it also its share of interesting people to look at. Every age, every color, every shape and size were there to board the bus along with me.
Over the years I have become a professional people watcher. That is, unless you define “professional” as getting paid. No one has given me money (yet) to do this. “Where on the East Coast was everyone going?” I wondered. “Why is that lady wearing THAT outfit?” “That man looks sad, I wonder why?” As curious as I was, I was also very tired and did not feel like talking to anyone. If I’m on the road and want to talk to others, I generally carry a magazine. A magazine tells others, “I’m reading but it’s not important so you can interrupt me anytime you want.” By contrast, if I am traveling and wish to be left alone, I will bring out my Bible. No one talks to you if you have an open Bible in fear that they might be the target of your next conversion. It’s like carrying a loaded weapon. Anyone sitting near you is afraid it will be aimed at them.
At a layover in Richmond, I found myself continuing my hobby of people watching. I noticed a young Japanese girl with a huge red bag walking around somewhat aimlessly. It was clear she was new to our country and unfamiliar with our stations. As I walked past her, she asked me a question about her ticket and destination. It turns out we were both ending our trip in Philadelphia. With her question answered, she went to the station’s in-house restaurant. I went back to people watching. About 30 minutes later, we boarded the bus. As Providence would have it, we ended up sitting next to each other and for the next five hours we engaged in conversation about her country, Hiroshima (her home town), World War II, the Olympics, family, Google Translate, blogging, religion and Cinnabons.
As we exchanged contact information at our destination and said our goodbyes, I realized something. I thought I was taking a bus from Charlotte to Philadelphia. Actually, I was forming a new friendship. The bus was merely the setting. I had a one dimensional goal in travel – get to Philadelphia. Apparently, God had two. I could have driven my own car to Philadelphia. I could have taken a plane or train. But I didn’t. I took a bus. And on that specific day (Tuesday, July 31st) in that specific city (Richmond, VA) on that specific bus (GLI 3014) at that specific time (9:15am) entered a specific stranger (Kyoko) who would decide to sit in a specific seat next to specific me.
What would have happened had I not had my “antennae” up or had I been closed to a conversation with a stranger? What if I was in ipod-land or sleeping or too engrossed in a book to notice a visitor to our country? I would have missed out on getting to know a fascinating person and making a new international friend. This specific moment in time, I was paying attention. But I wonder – how many moments a day do I miss because my antennae is down? How many moments do you miss because your radar is tuned to you and not to others?
There are people (strangers, friends and family) all around us that are in need of something and oftentimes we have the ability to personally meet that need. The question is, are we willing to do so? How many people in your life are lonely and need your friendship now more than ever? A simple phone call, email or an invite for coffee could be all the salve they need for their current hurt. How many people in your life need to borrow some money this month because they can’t keep their electric bill on during these tough economic times? How many single Moms need help with the children since they can’t “find enough hours in the day to do all that they have to do?” How many married couples desperately need a free babysitter so they can go on a long overdue date to keep their struggling marriage together? How many elderly neighbors need someone to clean their gutters or do their yard work since they can’t physically do the work themselves? How many Pastors need a letter from a member of their congregation saying they appreciate their often thankless work? How many employees need a “Good job! I notice what you do!” comment from their boss? Whether its money or services or talents or time or encouragement, everyone possesses something that can benefit others.
The reality is simple. If you have some extra time, you need to figure out how you can give it to benefit another. If you have some extra money, you should find a way to get it in the hands of someone who desperately needs it. If you have a certain gift or talent, you need to ask yourself, “Where can I best use this today?” If you have an extra car, maybe someone needs to borrow it. If you have leftovers, maybe there is a single person down the street who would love a home cooked meal, even if that meal has been cooked twice? Daily bread is meant for us – to meet our needs. Abundance of bread is meant for others – to meet their needs.
When you read the Gospels, you see the Example of a Man who lived His entire life with His radar on and antennae up. Jesus was never en route to somewhere without being aware of people and their many needs. On His way to Jerusalem (to be killed) He healed two blind men (Matthew 20). Even from the cross, barely able to breathe, He made sure someone would be there to look after His mother once He was gone (John 19). He never ran errands interrupted by people. People were His errands and every movement He made was for them.
One of my favorite passages of Scripture is referenced above where Jesus heals the two blind men. Mark chapter 10 tells us that one of them is named Bartimaeus. We are told that Jesus was leaving the town of Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd was following Him. If you have ever been in the center of a large crowd, you will know two things to be true:
- You do not notice much beyond your immediate personal space.
- You can only hear what is being said by those closest to you.
Unless, of course, you have your radar on and antennae up. As Jesus was walking along, He heard someone calling to Him over the noise of the crowd. Initially the men were told by others to be quiet. Ignoring them, they continued to yell louder and louder. Jesus called the men to Himself and asked them an unthinkable question. It’s a question that a subject asks a King. It’s a question that a slave asks his master. It’s a question that a child asks his parent. It is certainly not a question that God should ask a man. The question was simply,
“What do you want Me to do for you?”
What a powerful question. What an opportunity! The God of the Universe is asking blind beggars what He can do for them. Jesus is not oblivious to the men’s obvious need. Jesus wasn’t asking because He didn’t know the answer. It was merely a lesson for them (and us) on prayer and faith. You ask God in prayer and believe with faith.
That question leads me to two thoughts.
- What if God asked you today, “What do you want me to do for you?”, how would you answer Him? What is your life missing? What does your faith lack? God still asks the same question to blind beggars today. Before He grants sight, you have to recognize your blindness and you need to ask by faith. Maybe that is why we are still blind in so many areas of our life? We are too stubborn to admit it or too proud to ask.
- What would happen if you made it a habit to ask that same question to someone else every day? How could that radically impact someone’s life? Honestly, I think it would radically change yours.
With your radar on you will see an entirely different world today. When your antennae is up, you will see the needs of those around you like never before. Not everyone’s needs are physical or financial. Some are emotional and spiritual, but very real nonetheless. You need to open your eyes and start asking the question.
What if God placed you in that particular cubicle at work to meet the needs of co-workers? Maybe you live on your specific street, not because it’s your dream house, but because you have blind neighbors that need to see. What if God put you in that particular seat on the plane to help heal a fellow passengers sight? What if life isn’t about the travel or the house or the paycheck? What if it is supposed to be about meeting the needs of others?
What if today was supposed to be about helping blind men see? Is your radar on and antennae up?
***** Below is a picture of my new friend, enjoying a Cinnabon treat that I gave her. On her Facebook page she wrote afterward, “My new American friend gave me happiness! Best cinnamon roll in America!”