Can you see the expression of the Mona Lisa if you pause and think for a moment? Leonardo DaVinci caught a moment's expression and froze it unforgettably on canvas.
I wish I could paint for you another expression that is indelibly etched in my memory. The face is of a woman I never met, never spoke to; but her face just for a moment flashed a depth of gratitude that I can never forget. It changed me just to see it.
She was on my train one afternoon in Moscow, at a time of day when the trains were nearly vacant except for us three college students and a few women on afternoon errands. She was dressed in everyday clothing, kerchief covering her head, and cloth bags at her elbows to carry today's bread and perhaps a few other things. I paid little attention to her, as I sat chatting with my student friend across the aisle, a few rows back from this woman. Another student friend knew just a little Russian and so was trying to make conversation with her. Their halting conversation had no relation or interest to me.
We were a group of 24 undergraduate students studying the Eastern Orthodox Church. We had spent a few days in England, then Switzerland, then Greece, and then two weeks in what was then the Soviet Union. For me it was a lot of church, since I was not a student of the Bible at the time. I was deeply interested in God, but was along on the trip because I needed to see Russia, and this was the trip that was going to Russia - the religion class.
Needless to say, when we were asked if any of us wanted to bring a Bible into the Soviet Union (concealed on our bodies, since this was not legal), I was not among the four who wanted that experience. I was not even interested in the discussion.
But this day on the train I noticed out of the corner of my eye, amidst my own friendly chatter with my friend, this fellow student pulling from his backpack a small Bible in Russian and handing it to this woman. The exchange was lightning quick as there would have been trouble for both had anyone else seen it. But I think I was the only one in the world who did.
In a split second, I saw a look of gratitude flash on that woman's face, and it changed the way I would live my life. The book was stuffed into a cloth bag before it even brushed the surrounding air. And the look, too, was over almost before it began. She turned her body toward the front of the train immediately. She got off at the next stop without a look back - across the aisle, down two steps, and out the door into the crisp spring air of May in Moscow.
But I wasn't the same person anymore. I decided there must be more to this book than I realized, and I would read it again to see what could cause a face to look like that; what could cause a heart to beat as I knew hers did because I felt it in my own.
I'm certain I couldn't draw that expression. And the more I think about it, the less detail I can see in facial features. I could never pick her out of a lineup. I wouldn't know her if I saw her again.
But something unforgettable in her eyes went straight to my heart. I hope a glimmer of the gratitude I saw and felt that day from her, just by virtue of looking up when I did, shines in my eyes every now and then.
Millions of unprejudiced minds - simple seekers for Truth,
weary wanderers, athirst
in the desert - are waiting and
watching for rest and drink.
Give them a cup of cold water
in Christ's name, and
never fear the consequences.
Mary Baker Eddy
(Founder of Christian Science)