I met a Sudanese refugee this week that immigrated to the United States for work. He is an amazing man. I’ll call him “Steven.” Among the many humbling and gracious words he spoke, what shined most is his deep faith in God and enduring love for ALL people. He said he “vehemently” believes in doing things that “bring greatness” to the lives of others as well as himself. Steven is thankful to God for granting him many gifts and abilities, especially using them for “doing right things for others.” This brave and radiant young man gets up every morning with a smile on his face, knowing that God is always with him.
Three powerful themes emerged from my conversation with this immigrant, luminous messenger. From his own words, first, we are not restricted by anybody or anything except our own choices. Second, a loving gracious God exists and “resides in us, with us, beside us, around us, and among us,” no matter what our race, religion, culture, gender, or life circumstances. And third, serving the one human body of God and individuals in our local communities can bring abundant JOY!
After meeting this delightful new acquaintance, I headed to our lake house, which is a few miles from a community that has a significant new population of Sudanese and Hispanic immigrants. I stopped at the local big box “Super Store” for a few grocery items. When I arrived, I felt different. As I looked around, I saw “Steven” everywhere. I walked up and down the aisles and couldn’t get the smile off my face. I was beaming with the grace-filled lessons of Steven’s love and joy. My heart was expanded and with each and every immigrant I saw, it grew even more with love, compassion, and joy. And then, something amazing happened.
As I was gathering my items and looking around, a young Sudanese child made eye contact with me, smiled, and waved. With surprise, my heart leaped out of my chest and I felt the presence of our shared divinity and joy. It felt like a deeply sacred moment. There were no words between us, just a profound, yet brief surreal connection. We needed no words. We saw each other. I walked off dazed and intoxicated with the lessons of Steven stirring in my heart.
A few minutes later, in the next aisle over a family passed by. Not paying much attention, I was looking at my list when a young Hispanic girl pulled her hand away from her mom, and shouted loudly to get my attention, “Hi!”. I made eye contact with her, returned a smile, and said, “Hi!”
Seriously? Again? It was as if both kids were reaching out to me to share a soul moment. I was filled with gratitude. There was a familiar knowing among us. Our brief eye contact felt like an eternity of deeper seeing and recognition. I began to feel a universal oneness with everyone in the super store. I looked around with gentle compassion and curiosity. What was happening?
When life couldn’t get much sweeter, a third young Caucasian child laying on her daddy’s shoulder, lifted her head just a few feet from mine, grinned from ear to ear, and with the light of recognition in her eyes, greeted me with an adorable and engaging, “Hi!” I was enchanted as I stood soaking in the mystery of this unbelievable experience.
I thank Steven. His palpable love, joy, and heart for service, created a beautiful resonant field that ignited something in me. I believe the same gracious God, and divine spark, which resides within Steven, resides within me, and within all people, including the three children I met at the super store. Maybe, the three children simply recognized it sooner than I did, and reached out in remembrance to reconnect in a beautiful living experience of Namaste.
[The definition of Namaste (pronounced na, ma, stay) is both a physical gesture and a spoken spiritual salutation, which is the recognition of the divine spirit (or soul) in another by the divine spirit in you. The word Namaste translates simply to “I bow to the divine in you.”]
(Image found with SCiAF, Scotland’s Aid Agency sciaf.org.uk)