To what end are we traveling? How do we return trust and compassion to a world divided by self-absorption?
I saw her on a Wednesday morning on my way to pick up some medicine for my cat. She was standing at the corner of Central and Hillside outside of the Spangles restaurant as I patiently waited for the traffic light to give me permission to move on.
An older woman dressed in neutral colors; her skirt hit below the knee and her feet were outfitted in flat soled orthopedic type shoes. Modest, practical and nondescript. She wore glasses, a hat and a smile.
She had a kindness about her. My mind envisioned her offering me freshly baked cookies as I entered her clean, precisely kept kitchen. The simple cotton curtains gathered on the sides of the open window over the sink fluttering as the delicious aroma sailed through the air on a gentle breeze.
This grandmotherly stranger standing on the corner held a sign carrying a message. One side of the sign read, “For I know the thoughts .“
She held the sign steady, affording her audience ample time to carefully read each word. My curiosity began speculating the remainder of the statement this woman felt so compelled to share with us.
Timed to perfection with my wandering reflections, she flipped the sign around. The other side of the sign finished the sentence, completing her contemplative message, “that I think towards you.”
The traffic light turned green. The imaginary kitchen disappeared. I waved to her in appreciation for bestowing upon me a momentary pause from the ordinary everyday tasks at hand.
I felt an odd connection to this woman that I have never met and will likely never see again.
This innocuous woman heralding a message to the people of her community has been in my thoughts ever since. Her imploring lesson has implanted itself into an inquisitive section of my brain.
Religion is not a passion of mine. I’m not against religion, but not a strong proponent either.
Spirituality claims a thin slice of attention in my daily existence.
What was so important about this Bible verse to compel her solitary stance, her gentle plea to strangers?
There was no collection plate, no call to action. Just a simple sentence on a sign, a welcoming smile and a friendly wave.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. — Book of Jeremiah, 29:11 from the King James Bible
The Book of Jeremiah is one of judgment and patience. Iniquitous behavior would be punished; sacrifices would be rewarded.
Jeremiah spoke to people who were not listening, each a selfish isle to themselves. He exhibited courage in his solitary mission to convey an important message to the people who chose to ignore him.
I think the woman on the corner was trying to tell us that what we do matters. In the end, kindness, morality and living a more selfless lifestyle are mutually beneficial to all. A divine power is watching.
At least that’s how the message felt from the shores of my island.
I’m not very religious though. My interpretation could be way off base.
The world today is crowded with islands of distrust bred and nurtured by egocentric lifestyles. Little value is found in honor, compassion and respect.
There is a short term feeling of peaceful blissfulness in remaining stranded on my own island. The heart safely detached from the pain and drama churning in the surrounding seas.
After all, I am only one person.
I wonder if such thoughts ever crossed the mind of that woman on the corner as she held up her message for others to see, or ignore. The strength of her conviction is baffling and impressive to me.
I’ve returned to the corner of Central and Hillside many times in hopes of seeing her again. I’ve contemplated if I would approach her or not.
Such action would require me to leave my island, shorten the distance between myself and the problems of others. Getting involved promises the most risk and the biggest reward.
Can one person really make a difference?
That average woman at the intersection of Central and Hillside was steadfast in her conviction and faith that she can indeed make a difference.
Or are the islands too scattered, beyond the reach of a simple sentence and a kind gesture?
I’m standing on the corner of selfish and selfless, surveying the road in each direction, thoughtfully planning the end toward which I wish to travel.
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