Ash Wednesday is a weird day in New York.
Because for really the first time during these blistery winter months, you actually look up and see people.
Now, I know…that sounds bad. Like, what the heck? Who is this girl that she just goes around with her head in the clouds, not seeing people?
But it’s true. In New York, people commute –read: walk— on a mission. Especially in the winter. You’re bundled up. Hunkered down. And you’re walking with purpose to get to where you need to go, as fast as possible, so you can get in out of the cold.
Or when you’re on the subway — You listen to your ear phones, look straight ahead, and try not to get in anyone’s way.
Welcome to New York.
Ash Wednesday is a little different.
Because of a smudge of ash on your forehead.
Maybe it’s curiosity or nosiness, maybe it’s voyeurism, or perhaps a combination of all three, but I find myself looking at people. Really seeing them. Seeing their faces.
And this really did something to my heart. It convicted me.
I should be truly seeing people everyday.
Yes, the ashes on your forehead mark whether or not you went to church that day…but here’s the truth: regardless of whether we have a silly smudge on our foreheads or not…we are all God’s creation. And each and every man, woman, child, elderly, business man on the subway, mother with three kids in tow, homeless man on the street, teenager at the mall — every single person has an inherent value and dignity simply because of that fact: that they were created by God.
And regardless of a “smudge” or not — we are called to love each other. Show kindness. Compassion. Generosity. To everyone.
We are called to see one another.
Yesterday was really a wake up call for me. A realization that I need to look up, look into people eyes, and see the precious creation that is in front of me.
Because his or her inherent human dignity demands it.
To love my neighbor as I (am trying/learning) to love myself.
Lastly, walking around yesterday and really seeing the people around me, it made me think about how I saw myself.
I’ve been very open about my battle with the mirror – first: avoiding it at all costs because my self image reflected the pain my anorexia caused myself and others; and then finally (and more recently): growing to find the beauty inside. But the experience I had today in being intentional with how I looked at each person, reminded me that I need to do the same with myself. Really see the person looking back at me in the mirror. See her worth. Her dignity. Her beauty. Because it’s there. I’m just so accustomed to not look for it. But it’s there. He put it there.
At the end of the day, it’s just a smudge of ash on our foreheads. And perhaps, I’m not focusing on the point that these ashes remind us that we once were dust, and to dust we shall return. A symbol of humility. A symbol of the full-circle-ness of life and faith.
But this is what was put on my heart today.
Help me to see each person in the compassionate and loving way that He sees each and every one of us: as His precious and beloved children, worthy of His sacrifice.