One day, while walking my dog, I noticed a tiny bug on the sidewalk. Somehow the little guy had gotten turned over on his back and was desperately struggling to turn back over, with all his little insect legs flailing in the air.
It appeared to be a hopeless case. As I glanced down at the tiny creature, I thought to myself, “Oh, that’s too bad” and kept walking. A few moments later, I started thinking, “Perhaps if I just turned that little bug back over, he would likely be OK.” I knew if I left him alone, he would eventually die.
With that thought in mind, I turned around and went back to the spot on the sidewalk where I had seen the tiny bug, and found him right where I left him – still struggling to right himself. I gently extended my foot and, giving him a gentle nudge, turned him over, right side up. Immediately he started slowly crawling, then to my surprise, he flew away. I just stood there smiling as I watched him disappear into the air.
As humans, we often have a similar experience as that little bug, don’t we? We find ourselves seemingly turned on our backs struggling with a situation and hoping someone will come along and give us a slight nudge to right ourselves. During these struggles we often feel alone, overwhelmed and hopeless. Sometimes we just need a gentle nudge to get us going back in the right direction. Isn’t it true that we need our fellow humans to give us a gentle nudge rather than ignore or judge our struggles?
Think about a gentle nudge. What do we need to do to engage with each other and offer a helpful nudge? Sometimes it could be a simple word of encouragement, a smile from a passing stranger or the offer of a helping hand. So often we miss these opportunities because we are consumed with our own thoughts, problems and struggles. We turn inward and focus so much on ourselves that we don’t see the pain or needs of others. We walk past each other as if the others don’t exist. When we are so self-consumed, we miss all kinds of opportunities to make a real connection with another person, engage them in conversation or take a genuine interest in them.
As people of faith, we are called to encourage the discouraged, to love those who feel unloved and to share hope with those living without hope. In other words, we are called to impact the lives of others. But we can’t — and we don’t — live up to that purpose if we ignore one another. We can’t live up to our purpose if we walk away from someone, even though we see them struggling in life.
Think back to your own past. Do you recall a time when you felt alone? Was there a time that your life didn’t seem to be working out as you had hoped or expected? Did you find yourself struggling with your finances, a deteriorating relationship or facing a health crisis? Were you suffering from anxiety, low self-esteem or depression?
Whatever the situation was, did someone come along and give you the gentle nudge you needed to encourage you, to walk alongside you? Did God step in and bless you above and beyond all that you could imagine? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, then pay it forward and do the same for someone else.
Take some time out of your busy schedule and all that self-absorption and smile at a stranger, engage someone in conversation, send an uplifting email or text message. Call a friend or family member you know needs some encouragement.
Just for today, slow down and take a genuine interest in someone else — perhaps you can examine your heart and realize you haven’t been investing in your child or spouse as you should.
Take advantage of the divine calling and seek the opportunities each of us has every day to make a difference and give someone a gentle nudge and smile as they fly on and soar above life’s difficulties, feeling as though someone cares. Someone did care. You did.
~ By Natalie Rudd, who is on the ministerial staff at Antioch Baptist Church. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org