It was happening almost every time I walked through the noontime crowd. I'd be walking along, minding my own business. enjoying the sunshine, sights, and sounds during my lunchtime stroll ...
... when I'd notice someone staring at me. Not just dully glancing in my direction. I mean, really staring. Then, just as we were about to meet face to face, one of us would invariably turn away.
Sometimes when the people staring at me happened to be of the opposite sex, I felt offended. I even glared back a few times to set them straight! At the very least, I thought they were being rude. Hadn't their mothers taught them not to stare?
One day, when my daughter was with me, even she noticed. "Did you see that person staring at you?" she asked. I then made a mental note to pray about this.
Usually, I start my prayers by asking God what it is I need to know. Sometimes, there's even a little humor in the form my question takes! In this case, I asked my Father-Mother God, whom I knew to be infinite good and divine Love, "Dear God, given that You are too good and too pure to create a sinful mortal, whose only reason for looking at me is to find some other mortal to be inappropriately interested in - what is it I need to know?"
Immediately, a story from the Bible involving Jesus of Nazareth came to mind (see Luke 8:43-48). As the narrative goes, Jesus was walking through a crowd with his disciples, when a woman quietly slipped behind him. She'd been suffering from a hemorrhage for 12 long years. She was thinking that if she could just touch the clothes of this good man, she'd be healed.
Jesus asked, "Who touched me?" Apparently, his disciples were eager to move on. But Jesus would not be brushed aside, not even by his faithful, well-meaning students, who only saw a pressing crowd. He asked his question again, and the woman stepped forward to confirm that she was healed.
The Christian Science textbook says: "Jesus knew, as others did not, that it was not matter, but mortal mind, whose touch called for aid. Repeating his inquiry, he was answered by the faith of a sick woman. His quick apprehension of this mental call illustrated his spirituality" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, pg. 86).
This all meant something to me. I decided that from then on, I'd think about my encounters with the noontime crowd in terms of this kind of mental call. Was someone reaching out for help? If so, how could I help?
The next day, as I went to lunch, I resolved to smile at every individual who looked my way. If I noticed someone staring, I'd acknowledge that person as being created perfect by God - even in the face of a rude gawk.
And I saw such beautiful faces! People smiled back. I knew that they weren't just smiling at handsome little me. They were responding to the qualities of divine Love that I was expressing - the kind of comfort promised to each of us in the book of Isaiah in the Bible (see Chap. 40).
Then I noticed a woman staring at me from way off down the street. I resolved that I'd continue to affirm how much God loved each one of us, and that I'd not just look away as she approached. To my great surprise, when she reached me, she stopped and grabbed both my hands.
"Oh!" she said. "Will you pray for me? I'm on my way to a job interview, and I'm scared to death!"
For a moment, we just stood there, two perfect strangers holding hands. I asked God what I could say to this dear woman who had reached out for help.
"God is right here," it came to me to say. "He'll be with you at your interview, too."
The woman smiled and looked relieved. All the tension in her face dissolved. "Thank you!" she said. Then, she hurried off to her interview. Since she had asked me to pray for her, I continued to remember that infinite God, infinite good, was continually in her life, and in mine, for a few more minutes as I walked along.
Since that day, whenever I'm in a crowd, I try to look at each person with this blessing: "You have a divine purpose." That's true about me, and you, and each face in the crowd. God loves us so!