I’m not afraid to attempt a conversation in Hungarian – my kids and wife will all testify to this. They’ve all seen me on more than one occasion, stumble through the phrases I know and the small conversation they usually provide. A new taxi driver, another parent on the playground, or an elderly person sharing awkwardly close personal bubbles on a bus ride. But when I come to the end of my knowledge, it becomes painfully (or comically) obvious.
One thing I’ve noticed, is the impact on my prayer life when I’m out and about. It’s often been my practice to spend my times of solitude in prayer. Without an office, I’m less often in one location for large amounts of time. Without a car, my times of travel are often spent walking from one location to another. In all of these times of travel, I’m able to take time noticing the people around me. All of these things come together to offer me increased amounts of time in solitude, seeking moments of prayer even while sharing sidewalks, bus stops, and mall corridors with others.
When you know the conversations with those around you are inevitably going to hit a brick wall, you’re less apt to start them with every person you might have otherwise attempted to.
This has shaped my walking prayer times with prayerful contentedness. Yet even with content, I am still an extrovert. I see the people around me. I wonder about their stories. I imagine the errands they are on, and the day they are in the midst of. I pray.
“Lord, help me to see your presence in those around me. From the youngest baby crying on her mother’s shoulder to the oldest man trying to find a seat on the bus. From the group of teens filled with social anxieties they’re trying to conquer, to the adrenaline man who’s trying to sculpt his body one day at a time. From the older woman who has linked arms with her long-time friend to the many who walk alone – unaware you are with them. From those who jostle and shove without regard, to those who give an anxiously considerate distance when passing.
Help my smile or presence in some small way to remind them that there is Goodness. That if possible, they might be reminded they are seen by You. At very least – whether because they think it’s nice to be smiled at, or because they think I’m comical to look at. Even as I may pray specifics, help me to not assume I know their stories by observing their faces, watching their interactions, or hearing their tones. Remind me of the mysteries they are each capable of, and the Divine Love that both is with them and desires to arrive through them. Thank you for the ways you have allowed us to reflect your goodness and love. Search me and help me to know how I might increase in such Love, as I am reminded in these moments – this world needs more than a nice guy to walk through it. This world needs the Presence & Love of God to be indwelled, revealed and proclaimed.”
Humble confession: This is not every walk. Many of them I simply get a song from “Frozen” stuck in my head, and play it on endless loop. It may even look like the same contented smile from the outside.