Any parent of two or more children has heard the cry, addressed to Mom or Dad, in anger or in fear at a sibling: “He’s looking at me!” It’s amazing that the simple act of looking in another’s direction can be viewed as hostile – or useful – or loving. It’s not only people who react this way.. We have a small fountain in our backyard, a favorite attraction for the birds of our neighborhood. Cardinals and blue jays and mourning doves and others like it. But it seems to be the favorite attraction of robins who will congregate, drink and bathe in groups of two or more, while others perch nearby awaiting their turn. The fountain bubbles up from a reservoir below ground, and recirculates into the reservoir through some gravel and rocks and some metal screening. When the birds splash a lot, I need to replenish the underground reservoir. Robins seem to be the most tolerant of my presence nearby – unless I look at them. I can stand 10 feet away and turn on a hose to fill the reservoir. I can even trim the ivy growing alongside our house, or cut the grass with a power lawn mower, and that will not keep the birds from enjoying the fountain. But if I turn and look toward them, they fly away. A Grand Prix racer, Jimmy Clark I think it was, told of an incident in a race some years ago. I read about it in a sports magazine long discarded, so I can’t be absolutely sure of the person who told the story. In any event, though, the Grand Prix driver said he was approaching a blind curve in a race on the European circuit when he sensed something was wrong. He slowed his car, without knowing quite why, just realizing something was wrong somewhere. What he discovered a split second later was that there had been a serious crash of cars in the turn he was entering, and wreckage filled the race course. A grandstand at the curve was filled with hundreds, maybe thousands, of spectators. What the driver realized was that, as he approached the turn, he couldn’t see the eyes of any of the spectators – because they were all looking ahead toward the wreckage.
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I’ve often been struck by the passages in our Scriptures about Jesus looking at people – and what happens next. In the first chapter of John’s Gospel, Andrew, who has begun to follow Jesus, goes to get his brother Simon and brings him to meet the one he believes is the Messiah.. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas (which is translated Peter).” In the tenth chapter of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus tells a man to follow the commandments, and the man says he has already done that. Jesus, “looking at him, loved him and said to him, ‘You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to (the) poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’” But this one could not leave what he had, and he went away. The fact is, when Jesus looks at a person, a decision has to be made. The old life is threatened.
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What do you do when a homeless person or a beggar comes into your view? The advice I have often been given is, “Don’t make eye contact.” Once you look into a person’s eyes, you have made a connection. It is threatening, in a way, and it is harder to walk away. Take the time to reflect on the times that a “face-to-face” meeting with someone has changed you. Think about what happened to you when you “looked another person in the eye.” Did you feel love? Or did you feel shame?
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Take the time today to look into the eyes of one who is hungry or thirsty. Don’t walk away!
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