Sometimes, when I have time to ponder, when I'm sitting in traffic or listening to office sniping, I think: How would this look through the eyes of compassion?
Based on recent news reports, I think I could ask myself: What would Pope Francis see here?
As a former Roman Catholic, I have no fondness for the institutional church or the office of pope. But the current holder of that title sometimes blows the roof off my heart.
The Pope invites the sick and suffering to meet him after his Wednesday general audience.
What an extraordinary thing to see everyone, no matter how they look or smell or how their body functions, as worthy of kind attention. To greet them without subtly communicating distaste or averting your eyes. It's difficult to do.
neurofibromatosis type 1,which has left him with growths all over his face. His own father won't touch him, the man told an Italian magazine, but Pope Francis hugged him without hesitation.
"I'm not contagious, but he [the Pope] didn't know that," he said. "But he did it, period: He caressed my whole face and while he was doing it, I felt only love."
I'm deeply touched by these photos and the immense love, compassion, and lack of judgment. And seeing them I aspire to open my eyes of compassion more widely. I'm not going to start embracing people I don't know and I'll still stay as far away as possible from people with hacking coughs. But maybe I can see them more kindly.
No words were exchanged, just the healing comfort of touch. "I tried to speak to say something but I was unable to," said Riva in a translation provided by Time. “The emotion was too strong. It lasted a little longer than a minute but it felt as if it were eternity.”
And if one person sees more kindly, without the recoil, maybe that can head off the aversion contagion, where everyone looks away and pretends not to see what is not pretty.
After all, as the Grateful Dead sang, you are the eyes of the world. Or, as the Buddha said in the first line of the Dhammapada, we create the world with our thoughts. We can create a world where everyone receives the attention they deserve because of their inherent humanity or we can make a world where people who don't meet some standard of beauty disappear.
Where do you want to live?