An Encouraging Word — Compassionate people watching

Father J. Ronald Knott

Show kindness and compassion toward each other.  Zechariah 7:9

The ideas for this column come from observing ordinary people going about their ordinary lives. In other words, the ideas come from simply “paying attention” to people and reflecting on it. I believe Richard Moss was on to something when he said, “The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.”

Recently, I found myself in a gold mine of writing possibilities. I had four hours to kill in the Houston Airport so I got out my yellow pad and pencil, found myself a great seat and “observed” my heart out!

Air travel has gone downhill big-time in the last several years. Planes are like Greyhound buses with wings. An ocean of tired-looking zombies, with their faces peering into small cellphone screens, with thumbs texting ninety miles an hour, move through corridors like cattle being herded through commercial feed lots. To me, it had a feeling of “hell” about it, especially after having been locked in a hotel with sixty-five priests and a bishop for almost a week.

Lost looking elderly people, having surrendered their lives to other official-looking old people driving golf carts, were being whisked through the terminal. Fat people were devouring over-priced food that could kill you as they shuffled along, carrying their dripping sandwiches with one hand and pulling their luggage with the other.

Confused international travelers stood frozen in front of the “arrival” screens looking for “departures” that did not exist. Parents were herding their multiple children while scanning the crowd looking for possible kidnappers and looking like they wished they had never heard of Disney World or grandma had never moved to Florida to begin with!

TSA agents across the room, scanning for terrorists, were patting people down, blowing hot air up people’s clothes and asking them to raise their arms in circular booths. Wheel chairs, crutches, canes, eye-patches and bandages were sprinkled throughout the crowd and made you want to cry. Ugly yard-sale luggage and outrageous outfits, whizzing by, made you want to laugh. Strutting teenagers and available singles, in “cool” sunglasses, were hungrily looking around to see if anybody was checking them out.

After sitting there for a couple hours “observing” people, I decided to turn the tables and “observe the observer.” I starting checking how I was reacting to the world walking by me. I was tired. I was not happy that the airline had changed my flights three times since I had originally purchased the ticket, which had caused me to have to sit there for almost four hours. I found myself passing judgment in my mind like Olympic judges with their score cards.

All of a sudden, I changed course and started to look at what was before me with eyes of compassion. Trying to imagine what they were going through, I decided to bless them and pray for them. It made the time fly by and, surely, God was more pleased with my behavior!

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