Adwoa Lewis-Wilson shares her experience of completing the “God Sighting Map” activity, particularly reflecting on how we first become aware of human needs – especially our own – before we can offer any loving service.
Transcript: Hi, my name is Adwoa. This week I was trying to figure out how I might respond to human need in loving service. And as I did that, I realized how quickly one’s mind can jump to the part of service, actually, and in specific, thinking about service as action. And that didn’t feel actually quite right to me. I wondered about what it meant to respond in loving service. What would be a loving response to the needs around me?
And actually also as I began to do this exercise, I started to wonder about how in the world I knew what the needs around me were. I could make assumptions about that based on what I see. I could see somebody on the street and imagine that they needed food or shelter. I could see somebody who was crying and imagine that they needed comfort or a particular kind of healing. But all of that was based on me looking from the outside. And so as I did this exercise, I began to realize I needed another way of thinking about how I understood what need was. How I’d listened for what need was, how I felt need, before I could truly love someone in need, and then respond to them.
So when I read the prompt for this exercise, I took seriously the idea of starting at home and looking at the needs that were in my own home and where I’m staying right now. But I actually realized that I needed to take a step before that. And so when I did my exercise, my very first step is actually looking inside myself, trying to make peace with the needs that I recognize in myself. Am I comfortable letting people see those needs? Am I comfortable sitting with them, identifying them for myself, letting myself find the places that I’m vulnerable, and to find ways to let other people wash my feet as it were, because I began to realize that if I didn’t do that first, I wasn’t going to be able to respond to the needs around me in a way that was, for lack of a better word, chase I guess, not about my own ego. But I also wasn’t going to be able to respond from a place of humility and of connection and contact.
So the first part of this week for me really was taking a stock of my own human need and the places that I was vulnerable and needed to be mindful of that, both in order to receive care, but also how I might pass on that vulnerability to people that I might serve if I’m not mindful of it.
But the second thing that I noticed – and I sort of took it on as a challenge this week actually – was to look at not only the concrete needs, the needs that I could see with my eyes, or smell, or touch, the person asking for money, or the person who had fallen and needed help. I tried to imagine what the needs were beneath that and maybe the needs that we all have in common. So for example, I was sitting on a train one day and there was somebody who had an odor, and was perhaps drunk, and talking to himself, and the natural inclination was to see that as the person with need. And I registered that. I took a little check. But as I opened my awareness, I also noticed all the people around me in business suits who had their cell phones right in front of their faces. And all of us were on this train and none of us was noticing the moment, and none of us was noticing each other. And I thought that there was a real human need for all of us as we were going to wherever we were going that day. We all seemed to have our basic needs met. But in fact, there was a human presence and connection that we hadn’t put on when we left our homes that morning.
And so I found myself holding at once the person who we might all look to and say, “Oh, they need help.” But also, all of us together who were mindlessly entering this day that God had given us as a pure gift. I didn’t have anything to give to that person. But I could choose to give my presence to that train that day.
I found that doing this exercise gave me an opportunity to think about that. To think about whom we are as human beings. What a human being needs to thrive. It might be more than the basics and all of us can help contribute something to that.
– Adwoa Lewis-Wilson
This week, create your own “God Sighting Map,” which locates God’s presence and activity in your surroundings and in your interactions with others. Start close to home, then move out into your neighborhood and community. Who or what has been a sign of God’s love to you today?