As I was leaving the travel center, Shelly stopped me and asked me if I would do a drawing of her daughter. People often ask me to do works for them based on pocket photos. I am always willing, but have to warn them that small reference photos like that are so difficult to work from that I fear the outcome will not be up to their level of expectation. Shelly didn’t care, but sweetly, she was worried that she was delaying me getting on the road.

I told her, this is what I am here for. Getting to another city isn’t in anyway as important as being able to love upon her by doing this piece. So I set to work, meditating on the positive and expecting to do a good piece for her. Half way through the piece, she approached me to see how it was going, and told me about her daughter. The picture I was attempting to draw was the last known picture of her. Two days after the picture was taken, a horse fell on her and killed her…she was only 14. The shirt she was wearing in the photo was the one that they buried her in.

As if it wasn’t before, it became imperative that I do a good job for this mother. Shelly, starting to be overcome with emotion, excused herself “back to my station”. When I finished the work, she was happy with the product and my rendering of it, and stuffed some bills in my hand despite my protest. Happy I could love on this sweet woman.

As I was drawing it, a man tried to have a conversation with me again about Jesus, and how he is the best. I never start these conversations, but for some reason they always find me. I said, let us not debate over these things, but discuss how we can love one another. I again talked of Jesus’ assertion that, “You will know my disciples by their love for one another.” I said, I liked how the Buddha said, “Don’t take me words for it…try it out for yourself and see.” I said, let’s not fixate on those things that differ from religion to religion, but instead focus on what is the same between all: “Love your neighbor”.

For all of my college days, I was a cheerleader. I stood on the sidelines, and despite how poorly my team was doing, I would muster enthusiasm for them. It seems now that my pilgrimage forces people to question their own faith and acts thereof. I think that the fact that I have given up everything and live to the best of my ability everything that Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Confucius, and even Aesop says about how to live a moral and loving life (although I do screw up) is what bothers them.  Without saying a word, my dedication to love convicts them about there own belief. Like a cheerleader for a loosing team, they have to prop up their religious lifestyle, not that their religion is a looser, but their adherence to their own beliefs is called into question. How many times have I heard it related to me that Jesus said, “Many will come to me on that day and say Lord Lord, and I will say depart from me, I never knew you.”

It seems then the height of arrogance to me that when these people report this to me that they are inferring that others (like myself) will be those saying “Lord Lord”. But, they are the ones doing the “real work” of the gospel.  I may be one of those, but so may we all. Let us then proceed then with love, compassion, kindness, and humility not judging my or another’s walk.

In contrast to that man’s words, the man’s wife didn’t say anything about Jesus, but instead lived love. She fed me by buying me a salad and giving me a few bucks for the road. Holly the sweet woman who provided me with the art supplies also saw fit to come to find me and offer me her shower and to make me some coffee. These two women as well as Shelly loved on me, as I am sure they love on others. This is walking the gospel…not preaching it. It is their example I hope to reflect and replicate.

St. Francis said it best, “Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary—use words.”

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