The girl's words reminded me of a great line, Hebrews 3:13: "Encourage each other daily while it is still today."
Daily encouraging each other and receiving encouragement from others is one important way that we can live out God's will for us. So often we can wonder "What is God's Will for me?" Yet the answer is very simple. God's Will is right in front of us today. God waits to meet us and guide us in the Reality of the people and events of every moment of every day. God's will is for us to wade forward into those moments, into those relationships, instead of hanging back safe on the shore. The more uninvolved we remain, the less of a chance we have to encounter the Risen Lord.
So often, what Jesus asks of us in the "Now" is to be really aware of how he needs us in the people we meet. The others around us need our simple words and acts which give love, hope, and encouragement. We don't have to be extraordinary. We do have to be continually "alive" to the people, the animals, the birds, the very earth around us, that need our loving care. Even if it's being observant and caring enough to, as Mother Teresa says, offer a smile.
Being alive to and aware of God present in the everyday moments paves the way for us to be aware of what God might be asking of us in the future. At one point in Mother Teresa's life she made a private vow to give Jesus anything he asked of her, to refuse him nothing. For her, at that time, that meant meeting Jesus in the simple events of her every day life as a teacher in India. But then one day Jesus asked a great deal of her, speaking to her interiorly as she rode on a train to a retreat, asking her to radically change her life, leave teaching, and take care of the poorest of the poor whom she had seen racked by illness, neglect, famine, and violence in Calcutta. She struggled with this for days during her retreat. In every Communion, she heard Jesus ask her "Wilt thou refuse?"
How and why did she hear Jesus? Mother Teresa's readiness to hear Jesus' interior voice calling her to something new happened because she was already spiritually disciplining herself to be aware of Jesus meeting her every day in every person, event, and place. She was already prepared to see, really see, the poor around her whenever she left her familiar surroundings at the school. Because she waded into life, saw the needs of the people around her, she was ready to say "yes" to Jesus, to meet Jesus in the poor. To leave her familiar life behind and begin to build homes and then build up an Order of sisters to encourage, give hope, and give peace to Jesus present in the poor.
Since she spent so much of her life doing "great things," you might be surprised to learn that Mother Teresa still stayed practical, humble, and down-to-earth during the ordinary moments of her life with her other sisters. She still stayed aware of her Lord present in the people around her in the convent. Brian Kolodiejchuk, a Canadian priest who knew her well, says this about her in "Saint of the Darkness," an article in "America" magazine:
"...what was really striking was how really motherly she was. Everyone who knew her even briefly would call her Mother, and the sisters would call her Mother and so to all the people close to her she was just Mother. She really wanted to be that maternal presence - that's one of the striking things.
"The other was just how ordinary she was. Sometimes, if you didn't know what she looked like and you were in the convent, she wouldn't be sticking out in any way, unless you noticed how she would do those little things, like a genuflection or taking the holy water when you enter - little things that you could say was a special way she did those things. She was a realist saint, with her feet on the ground, very practical, very observant. You couldn't get anything past her. At meal times, she would notice what sisters were eating, what sisters were not eating, what was said, what kind of mood you're in - she was very observant!"
Reading these observations made me think of the parents, grand-parents, aunts, uncles, teachers and religious women and pastors I know; how realistic, practical, humble, and observant they are - so often about the little things. They see what people are wearing, or not wearing, whether they are tired or sad or angry, what they're eating or not eating, if they're alone or with others, if they appear ill. How lavish these people are with hugs, with words of love and encouragement, with practical questions about ways in which they can help, ways in which they can visit together. How lavish they are with smiles and jokes to lift others' weary spirits! Yet not only adults do this for each other or for the young. Children and teens can also be lavish with their love, awareness, and encouragement. Think of "Special Needs Kids, Unite!"
Accepting the reality of everyday situations can be difficult and challenging. It can require great courage and faith that God will lead us and support us. But God always will. Fr. Pierre de Caussade, S.J. wrote "Once we grasp that each moment contains some sign of the will of God, we shall find in it all we can possibly desire."
God encourages us daily! Just as God is present in the smile of another for us, God is present in others' words of encouragement and insight for us, in sermons or homilies, in others' going out of their way to help us. When we look and listen for God, we can become alive to God's Presence in the simplest, most ordinary things: be filled with joy by a rosebush in bloom or the song of a robin; be brought to peace by the sight of snow slowly falling out of a star-lit winter sky and sparkling in our hair and on our coats like diamonds; be comforted and brought to healing tears by a beautiful hymn at Church; feel the warmth of Jesus' touch in the healing hugs and kisses of a loving friend. Everyone and everything that ministers to us bears the imprint of God's care.
People of God, Unite! God created us to be the greatest support and encouragement system ever - for the whole wide world! Wherever we go, wherever we travel, we bear Christ's presence within us for others, and receive Christ's Presence from others. So encourage each other daily, while it is still today. Tomorrow we may travel into eternity to be encouraged and loved by God face to face.