I had an hour before I had to pick up my daughter from school, so I was leisurely perusing the aisles at Target. Having chaperoned her class trip to a pet store that morning, I needed a little grownup solitude before beginning the rest of my day. I discovered some inexpensive fall decorations for my house and, having deposited them in the shopping basket on my arm, stopped in the clearance racks to talk to a friend from church. She told me of the new women’s Bible study they’re doing, and we talked about her granddaughter’s and my daughter’s adjustments to pre-K this year. We had a nice chat, then went on our separate ways.
On to the snack bar for a drink and then to the school to pick up my girl. We got home and, upon entering the bathroom, I made an awkward discovery. All through my errands…conversations…interactions….I had been wearing an odd accessory. Perched high on my shirt, in a position of prominence usually reserved for favorite jewelry items or cute scarves, was a sticker my daughter had given me.
I don’t know if anyone had seen it. I don’t know if anyone cared if they had seen it, but as I peeled the sticker from my shirt I had a thought: Anyone who saw this knew what I’ve dealt with today. A quick glance, and anyone could have known where I had been and what I had done and, if they were familiar with preschool class trips, how I was feeling.
As I chuckled to myself at how silly that sticker must have looked, worn with pride in a position of prominence, I thought about how different life would be if everyone had a sticker on their shirts, announcing what they’re going through or what is on their minds to anyone they met.
“Had another power struggle with my daughter before school this morning. Sometimes I just want to scream.”
“Haven’t had any time alone with my husband in over a month. I wonder if he even loves me anymore.”
“My phone hasn’t rung in a week. I feel utterly alone.”
“I’ve been looking for work for a year. My life has no purpose and I want to give up.”
“The collection agency called again. I really don’t know what to do. I’m scared.”
“I’m smiling because I’m in public, but when I get home I’ll curl up in my bed and cry myself to sleep.”
What if we all wore our hearts on our sleeves like that? What if our deepest struggles – greatest joys – most intense fears were laid out there for everyone to see, adhered to our shirts like a child’s sticker?
What if we – the eyes and ears, hands and feet of Jesus in this world – had the ability to see into the hearts of people we meet? And what if we realized the impact we could have on those situations as they are exposed to us?
See, the truth is that even though people aren’t wearing stickers telling their stories, the stories are being played out in real ways. And even though we don’t know what’s going on, we still have a job to do.
We can’t know everything about everybody. That is unreasonable to expect. But we can see everyone as somebody, and we can offer everything we have.
“You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14–16, The Message)
We are light-bearers, walking through a dark world. There are needs and hopes and dreams that we may not know anything about, but we represent the One who knows and sees and has the answer. When we shine, they see Him.
So smile. Greet people on the sidewalk. Learn about the lives of people you see all the time. Shine brightly.