I see him coming as I amble up the street, flip-flops slapping pavement with a steady rhythm. I’ve met up with him before, the tall, bony man who walks with an uneven gait, as though he were wearing a flat shoe on one foot and a platform shoe on the other foot.
His head is round and looks unusually large settled on a long, skinny neck. He wears a hat squashed over his gray hair and kind, blue eyes bulge from behind a thin layer of pale skin. I watch him saunter in my direction and I wonder about his story, this lowly man that looks like a societal misfit. I wonder if people are kind to him.
He looks up as we approach each other and I smile. His lips break into a broad smile and he raises a shaking hand, cigarette clutched between two fingers, and he waves. “It’s a beautiful day, ain’t it?”
“Oh yes!” I slow my pace as we pass each other and I look straight into his eyes and smile, “It’s lovely out here. You have a nice day, sir.”
My husband and I? We make our home in an upstairs, 800 square foot apartment located in a busy, commercial section of town. He is a carpenter, the love of my life, and I babysit kids and teach piano lessons and hang my laundry on the only wash line on Water Street.
I am not doing anything big and I’ll just say it now, sometimes my life feels infinitely insignificant. I even still wonder, now and again, what the purpose of my life is, a question I thought new graduates wrestled with and I’d have answered by now.
The question mark feels bigger instead.
I worry that my life isn’t making a difference because I’m not out saving lives or writing bestselling inspirational novels or rescuing orphans in Haiti. My heart is all there, but does how much you care really count at the end of the day?
Sara Groves, the beautiful song artist, she tells this story about a woman whose life was forever changed the day she ran into a homeless man and dumped the food that she was carrying all over him. As this woman profusely apologized to the homeless man he stared and stuttering he said, “Are you talking to me?”
The woman couldn’t understand why the homeless man was asking her that. “Of course I’m talking to you! I’m so sorry I dumped food all over you!” She answered, wiping at his shirt with a towel.
“You can see me? No one has talked to me in so long, I didn’t know if people even saw me anymore.”
I get goose bumps every time I replay her CD and hear her tell that story. I can’t imagine what that kind of aloneness must feel like, to think you might be invisible because no one ever really looks at you or talks to you.
And Jesus, He said this:
“A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.” (John 13:34-35)
The measure of a life well lived is measured by a life that loved well, and God’s love is not calculated by a bestseller list or a particular location. In the upside-down kingdom, career choice and college degree never rank above sacrificial love.
And this is why a small life can make a difference, and it’s the cashiers in the grocery store and the ordinary farmers and the mothers of children that should be our heroes, because their small life is what’s really making this whole wide world spin on its axle.
I’m realizing this more and more, that how I live my small life from the 800 square foot apartment on Water Street matters, because Jesus said that He could hang all the law and all the prophets and stake all the virtues of them on this one thing… that we would love the Lord our God wholly, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves.
When I walk by the nameless man on the street, the one with the uneven gait, and the awkward boy with the elf ears who shuffles downcast, the one I imagine gets laughed over at school, I look at their faces and my eyes meet theirs and I smile wide.
Because this loving others as you love yourself? This is why Jesus came.
All the accolades and tributes, accomplishments and honors, all the glory and praise of man? They are shadowed by the revelation of God in the earthly man living his life by the one law left standing.
The law of love.