While I have been hanging out in Iowa City (my third trip on the ten day tour), during Tess’ college orientation, I have had opportunity to do lots of people watching (this is because I chose not to do the parent portion of the orientation since I had just done it two years previous). As I sat in the ped mall—a very cosmopolitan, outdoor, community-inviting section of downtown Iowa city—I ate my Jimmy John’s Turkey Tom Unwich and my cake batter/black forest froyo, I watched a traditionally dressed Indian woman talking on her cell phone and guiding her tiny beautiful daughter, who stopped and stared at my yogurt, with her dark and delicate hand. I saw another mother, Caucasian, obviously mid-forties, dressed in the clothes of a teenager, trying to look like a teenager, and walking with her soon-to-be college bound daughter, who was dressed in the same type of clothes; it was easy to tell who the real teenager was. I noticed a 50-something biker dude all decked out in spandex shorts and shirt, and he looked great from the back, but when he turned around, he had this huge belly which was showcased by his tight white biking apparel—and his phone—which had to be plastered with sweat to his skin—was also zipped inside. Maybe he’s new to the sport. and wanted to make sure he had his phone in case of emergency. I saw guys and girls walking hand in hand, girls and girls walking hand in hand, and young mothers with strollers and ice cream-stained children trailing behind them. I heard a little girl on the bench beside me telling the people beside her that she had never seen so many birds up close. The birds at the ped mall—pigeons, and sparrows, and little un-namables with very cute perfectly round heads—reminded me of the birds I had seen while in Holland in the town centers. They are so tame and plentiful—looking adorable while they feast on everyone’s crumbs. I saw two preppy guys and a magnificent-looking Siberian Husky retreat into a mysterious door on the side of a bar. I eyed some parents on the bus with worried-looking faces—each wearing Iowa pins and carrying remarkable amount of Iowa paraphernalia—obviously here for orientation; as they clung to one another, their son sat aloof beside them trying to act cool and not scared. I watched a grandma, adoring her grandson as he toddled into the fountains of water erupting in the playground. I told her that I was adoring him too, and she beamed.
I wondered about all of these people. What were they thinking? What were they doing out and about on this Monday afternoon? Were they thinking about the doctor’s diagnosis? or their late rent? or the fight they had with their spouse before they left? Were they proud of their middle school baseball star? worried about their chronically sick child? their wayward teenager? their ailing parent? Did they wonder how they would make it with their son away at college? Were they excited to be married? depressed about their impending divorce? rejoicing in being a grandma? mustering up the courage to ask the admired one on a date? Were the moms delighting in their children? or just trying to make it through the day? Were they appreciating the little ones’ dependence or yearning for an early bedtime? Did they feel appreciated? obligated? taken for granted? I thought about saying “Good job!” to the little Hispanic man cleaning the high light fixtures on the side of a building, but I didn’t. Maybe I should have. Maybe he needed encouragement.
Everyone’s got a story. Everyone feels pain. Everyone feels joy. Everyone feels. Sometimes that’s hard for me to remember. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my story, and my lunch. and my bench, that I forget to look beyond. My world becomes all about me. That’s not how God wants me to be. He wants me to watch these people, get involved with their stories, and love them lavishly. He wants me to show them Who He is by getting to know who they are.
He wants me to get out of my own little world and into His big one. That’s not an easy task for an introvert like me. But I can do it, through Him, because I desire to obey. and to become less like myself. and more like Him.
Dear Jesus, help me to have eyes to see beyond my bench…and hands to reach your world.
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again,not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
1 Peter 1:22-23