After reading Tim Ferris’ method for the Practice of Loving Kindness, I had become fairly intentional about wishing happiness for people at random times of the day. I have a sticky note on my desk, and when I see it, I wish happiness for two people in my vicinity, as Ferris prescribes: “I wish happiness for this person, and I wish happiness for that person.” But the Practice of Loving Kindness is a kind of quasi-spiritual mental trick to change the way you think. Ferris concludes that the Practice of Loving Kindness improves the practicer’s mood, without saying whether it helps the target. Anyway, I’d been doing it, but I had a mental/spiritual shift recently.
Last Saturday I was walking through Dulles airport, way too early for my flight and feeling anxious about my destination, and I became aware that I was silently judging everyone I passed – I think as an unconscious and misguided way to off-load stress (which wasn’t working). I had an epiphany about how demented and backwards this was.
In “A Christmas Carol” ( the Patrick Stewart version) the Ghost of Christmas Present is an enormous red bearded man dressed in an emerald green crushed velvet robe and holly crown. You wouldn’t miss him unless you were at a Mardi Gras parade, but he and Scrooge are invisible to other people. As the Ghost walks through the marketplace with Scrooge, he dips into a silver ewer and casts glittery blessings over the unwitting people they pass. It’s one of my favorite parts of the story, because it’s like God walking amongst the people passing out blessings to everyone who needs one.
It occurred to me as I walked through the airport – set on my default misanthropic setting of silently judging everyone for being or doing anything I didn’t think they should be or do – that I was the opposite of the Ghost of Christmas Past. Instead of sprinkling blessings on people, I was sprinkling bad thoughts on them – cursing them instead of blessing them.
Why not instead ask God to bless people as I interact with them or walk past them?
CS Lewis wrote that “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. It is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit” (The Weight of Glory). Every person I passed, the ones hurrying to their gate, or standing around, or eating, or drinking, or waiting for a free bathroom stall, or cleaning the bathrooms, was an immortal soul with a divine purpose. They require blessing, not cursing.
Every person I passed, the ones hurrying to their gate, or standing around, or eating, or drinking, or waiting for a free bathroom stall, or cleaning the bathrooms, was an immortal soul with a divine purpose. They require blessing, not cursing.
I decided to switch my cursing for blessing. I pictured myself as the Ghost of Christmas Present, walking by people sprinkling blessings of peace and joy. When I boarded the plane, I blessed the people I passed as I walked down the aisle to find my seat. As I sat there waiting for the plane to taxi, I noticed that the young man sitting next to me was clutching his boarding pass in both hands, so I prayed that God would give his heart rest. When the guy in the window seat started guzzling Jack Daniels at $8 a shot from the beverage cart, I prayed that God would release him from whatever fear or anxiety or depression was gripping him.
Interesting things started happening. I had a feeling I was going to see someone I knew on the return flight. As I boarded the plane, someone called my name and there was a former neighbor whose son was once really close buddies with my youngest son. We were sitting a few rows apart, so only had a few moments to catch up, but I spent much of the flight praying for her, because I felt God must have put her in my path for a reason.
This week I answered the phone at work, and the caller was from a florist providing a quote for a big charity dinner. I recognized the voice before I even heard her name. It was a former close friend with whom I’d had a falling out. We hadn’t spoken in years. I didn’t need a neon sign to tell me that God was telling me to forgive this woman. Whether the friendship can or should be restored, I don’t know, but I mailed her a pretty card with my phone number and added her to my prayer list.
I’m interested to see where this “blessing project” will lead next.
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” Romans 12:12-16
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Romans 12:14