A few months ago, my car battery died while in line waiting to get gas at Costco – very inconvenient, to say the least. When it became obvious I wasn’t going to move, the cars behind me began going around me. No one asked if there was a problem or if they could help. They just drove around me like I was an irritant slowing down the line.
Eventually, the attendant noticed I wasn’t moving and came over to ask if anything was wrong. I told him the problem and he made a couple of suggestion, which didn’t work. Then he asked if I had AAA. When I said that I did, he suggested I call them, put up a couple of cones behind my car, and left. So there I sat, waiting for AAA, people in cars streaming by me on both sides. And no one even looked at me, much less spoke to me.
As I sat contemplating my sense of aloneness and invisibility in the midst of a crowd of people, my mind quickly gravitated to those for whom this experience is a daily reality. How many people do I regularly come in contact with who feel unseen and unnoticed, their needs obscured by my busyness and self-absorption?
I thought about the man who sits most days in front of the post office that I frequent. Sometimes he has a sign telling a bit about his story and asking for money. Sometimes he just sits there, staring off into space or down at his feet. Never once had I read his story. Never once had I greeted him. In fact, I had been to the post office earlier that day and walked right by him like he wasn’t even there.
Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:14-16 came to mind as I continued to contemplate this experience. He makes it clear that his people are the light of the world and that light should not be hidden, but should bring light to others in their situations. Verse 16 says, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (ESV).
Instead of walking around in my own little world focused on my own needs, I ought to open my eyes to those around me who need a little light to shine into their lives.
I am not the source of the light I have to bring. It is the light of Jesus, who is the ultimate source of light in this world (John 8:12). He is the one who brings light into the darkness.
But I am to be a reflection of his light, a beacon in the darkness. When others see that light through my actions in the world, it will bring glory to the Father in heaven rather than to me. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. But when I walk through this world wrapped up in myself, I am hiding his light. I am not putting it on a lampstand so that all may be drawn to it and benefit from it.
When the AAA driver finally arrived and got my car started, I went on my way. And I was grateful to no longer feel quite so much like the invisible woman. After driving around for a while to charge up my battery, I drove straight to the post office. The man who sits on the steps regularly but who I’d never really seen before was still there. I walked up to him and greeted him and put some money in his little box. I really looked at him and said, “God bless you.” And as I walked away, I prayed that he would see the Father as the source of any blessing he received.
It wasn’t much, but it was a start.