When I was in my 20s, I glimpsed the truth that we all wear the face of Christ in a unique way and that what we do unto anyone else we literally do unto ourselves. I’ve spent the rest of my life trying to remember that. Here are three things that help make it a habit.
- The Supermarket Check. When standing in line at the checkout I remind myself that the individual in front of me is Christ and that the injunction to love her as I love myself is literally true. A little miracle happens: I not only love her, but like her, and if her credit card is no good or her kohlrabi doesn’t register, I don’t get mad. By the time it is my turn to chat with the dark-eyed checkout girl from Nicaragua, I am madly in love.
- The Office Visit. Despite a life of good intentions, workers who busted into my office with problems when I was busy doing my own work used to tax my patience. I mentioned this to Henri Nouwen, who said, “Those people are your work.” I never forgot that.
- The Phone Call. I told myself a long time ago to pause a moment before picking up the phone and remember that it was the voice of Christ calling (see number one). This worked beautifully for most of my life, (One author said, “Every time Mike picks up the phone you feel like he’s been waiting his whole life just to talk to you”—that’s how you feel when you really know it’s Christ on the line.) until I semi-retired and just about every time I picked up the phone it was a telemarketer who wouldn’t let go of my ear. That wore on my patience until I heard from a friend that my favorite spiritual teacher, Dr. Thomas Hora, had this telephone maxim, “Before you say hello, say I love you.” I don’t always say that to myself before I pick up the phone or before someone I am calling picks up his or her phone, nor do I always remember that it is the voice of Christ on the other end, but I am discovering still that both of these practices are beneficial habits that put me in my proper place.