I love meeting people along the way in my travels. As I often say, there are no coincidences in life. I met this man at the airport before boarding my flight to New York from Wisconsin. As he approached, sweeping up little pieces of debris with his worn out straw broom, I thanked him for his hard work. I had been in the company of dear Father John Hardon, S.J. on many occasions when he thanked cleaning women and janitors for their work. You see, Fr. Hardon’s mother was a cleaning woman and he made it a point to thank people who work hard to keep our surroundings clean. So, I was thinking of Father, using “a page from his book” as that man approached. My heart went out to that man. He stopped for a moment and thanked me, seemingly very surprised that I would complement him on his work and even thank him. He said it’s extremely rare for him to get a compliment.
So, we got to talking. I love when a conversation unfolds with a stranger. Or, someone whom Mother Teresa would call “Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor.“ I shared a bit about my faith with this man. He told me he is an ex Catholic. I gave him one of my Mother Teresa prayer cards which shows her holding my son. It has a prayer on the back that I wrote. He looked carefully at the card and then placed it in his cart. I just love how he put it there in his cart facing him.
And then I ventured to offer him a blessed Miraculous Medal even though he is an ex Catholic—he accepted it. He said he is saved by Jesus. I told him that it was Jesus‘s mother on the medal. He took it from me and placed into his pocket and told me he would get in touch with me later on. I gave him my business card. We talked a bit more and then I needed to head toward security to eventually board my delayed flight. That is another story about the searches, getting stuck in the air for a while, etc. 😳
I prayed a rosary on my flight specifically for this man. I also prayed hard for the man I met a bit later–the one who yelled at me when I was putting my carry-on luggage into the overhead bin when boarding the flight. He was in a mad rush and acted very mean and rude toward me, trying to push me out of his way. I told him–very calmly in a quiet voice, “It will be OK.“ because I knew he was steaming mad and I tried to defuse it, or at least help him to feel better in some way. But, he shot back, “No! It won’t be OK!” And he continued yelling all the way down the aisle to his seat, saying unkind things about me. His wife tried to calm him down, but this man was very angry at me for some reason. However, despite the uncomfortable feeling in being a convenient scapegoat for him, it gave me a wonderful opportunity to want to pray for the angry man. God knows just what He needs and I pray to be a little instrument of God’s love.
No doubt about it, God places these people in our lives for a reason. Will we venture to push a bit beyond our comfort zones to minister to the walking wounded? Everyone has a story. Everyone is loved by God. God asks the faithful to minister to His children. A kind word or gesture, sharing our faith with strangers when possible–all help to transform hearts and souls–including our own! Many times, small acts of love can bring hope to someone’s troubled heart and soul.
Be attentive! Look up from your devices and phones and see who it is, perhaps standing before you or close by that God wants you to minister to. Remember too, that Mother Teresa had said, “Love begins at home.” Let’s also be sure not to neglect our own families and the needs there at home by running off to save the world.