I was on the subway in DC the other day and there was what appeared to be a homeless person standing across from me. The main reason I drew this conclusion was the stench, followed by the garbage bag he held like luggage. I’m not a morning person, I don’t enjoy the subway and I hate standing (basically I’m a bit of a spoiled brat in the morning).
So when I got on and encountered the smell I grew irritable. But I was attending a psychotherapy conference and we had been learning to utilize neuroscience principles in our self-care and practice. One workshop had me really thinking about my 7 month old son. When I recall an image of picking him up and him laughing and reaching for my face I’m filled with joy. The exercise also had me view the scene from my child’s point of view. So I imagined his joy as he reached for my face. I cannot help but smile. I had been making a practicing of this and decided to try it on the subway car to keep me from descending into too much irritability. I was surprised by what occurred.
As soon as I felt my son’s joy, I realized that he would be smiling at the homeless man too. He doesn’t really care about smells and hygiene at this point, he just really likes people and is filled with wonder and curiosity about the world. I found myself caring much more for the individual across from me and I thought about Max’s orientation to life. He smiles at people and they smile back. He tries to get peoples’ attention and if they pass him by he just moves on to the next interesting thing. He isn’t concerned about rejection or social norms and often it works for him as he’s rewarded with smiles and interactions.
He lives a life of love. As I grew convicted about my lack of love, I realized how much better I felt as I loved the person across from me. Now I could have done so much more, but I’m not there yet. The point about my conviction that I think is important is that I recognized something deeply profound. I was the one missing out when I did not engage in love. Christianity wasn’t diminished, God’s hands weren’t tied, I was the one who was missing out. When I judge others, imagine rejection, or engage in unkindness, I suffer for it. Love is freeing and empowering. I found myself asking what would Max do, in the same fashion as the WWJD movement. It took me out of the religion of it, the “shoulds” of it, and got me in touch with the emotion, the disposition in being naively loving and open.