This picture of the Pope blessing a man with severe disfigurement stopped me today. The rush of my own life, the noises from outside, the shadow of the dancing leaves on my coffee cup –all these things that delight and vex me — came to a halt when I absorbed image.
Some people are born into this world with extraordinarily challenging circumstances. Their lives, from start to finish, are marked by difficulty that most of us will never experience. Think about it — this man gets up every morning and faces the day with his situation. He never gets a break. This is what he lives from start to finish.
Seeing this man with Pope Francis reminds me what it means to be a human being. We cannot be defined by appearance, good health, wealth, power or any of the other things that distract us as we take whatever path we choose through life. I’ve not met a single person yet who hasn’t slipped to allow vanity to color their actions or opinions. (For a good portion of us, those self- or societally inflicted trappings are our greatest burden.)
When I saw this photo, it reminded me that inside of every living body is a soul who wants what I think we all do — to know that we matter. Like food and shelter, it’s a common denominator need. We do things every day to prove that we matter to ourselves. In the middle of drafting this post, I went upstairs and put on eyeliner to attend my children’s school conference, because I wanted to look a certain way. To be honest, the fact that I write in this blog is a way to make myself matter. I think that’s the case of anyone compelled to do anything. We want to be a part of our world. We want to have an impact.
Our world makes it hard sometimes to not question people’s motivations. The desire to matter can become unhealthy when it drives people to do things that harm (or not do things that will bring about good). But regardless of how you feel about organized religion, when this man stepped up to Pope Francis, from one human being to another, he was told that he matters.