This morning I watched a recorded segment from an Oprah Show that told the story of a woman, Angela, who prayed with a young man who attempted to rob her at gunpoint while she worked behind the counter in her office. I imagine many of you may have heard about the story. Out of fear and desperation, she begged the man to spare her life and then started praying out loud asking to be protected. She told him, "You're too young to do this. Don't throw away your precious life. You don't look like a person who would want to hurt someone." The young man insisted that he had no choice because his family was about to be evicted from their home. He didn't know what else to do.
Eventually, as the woman continued to talk with him, the man dropped to his knees, began to cry, and asked her to pray with him. And she did. Shortly after he gave her the bullet from the gun and said, "No one's ever talked to me like this."
It was that line that stayed with me long after the story was over. As it turns out, the young man was depressed, had attempted suicide in the past, and was now feeling enormous pressure to provide for his fiance and young child without believing he had the ability to do so (and given his state of mind, he didn't). One simple act of love from a woman who reinforced the preciousness of his life was what he needed to see a different way. Later in the evening he turned himself in and is awaiting a hearing. It is my hope that he gets counseling and guidance, and a chance to help others with a lengthy community service project that will teach him a new trade.
When times are tough and life feels dire, solutions and help can seem so far away, completely unavailable, or overwhelming at best. But, more times than not, the opening to grace begins with an act of love - a willingness to listen rather than criticize, a prayer of forgiveness, an affirming statement that reminds a young woman of her inherent goodness, or an offer of support that sets a dad on a better path.
Today I vow to remember this. In my life I've been witness to the fact that a simple act of love contains a kind of power that goes beyond what the human mind can comprehend. It can shift consciousness in an instant and change a life forever. As I go about my week, I intend to smile at strangers more, look for opportunities to speak an encouraging word, or offer a prayer of hope for someone in need. I invite you to join me.
Take Action Challenge
Imagine that within your heart lies a powerful force that can move mountains. Your loving thoughts can heal. Your loving words can calm a worried soul. Your loving actions can do more good than you may ever know. Affirm your willingness to use this power for good in the world. Then, invite opportunities to come to you and keep your eyes open.