I used to love watching David Letterman, especially when he made his Top Ten List. I used to do my own for various occasions, trying to be funny and mostly failing, I suppose. I would also do my own list of music and other things.
For example, I would do a Summer Song List, a Christmas Song List, a Christmas Movie List, and even a Top Ten Best Episodes of West Wing List.
These were all positive endeavors, and sometimes they would change over time, but they were done with a smile and a good feeling in my heart. Sadly, there are other lists that we may be creating these days, given the state of division in which we find ourselves.
We need to remind ourselves of the positive things in our lives that tend to draw us together and to ignore those that tear us apart.
Over twenty years ago, I was heading to my office at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. I was in Grand Central Station heading for the Number 6 uptown local. As most New Yorkers commuting, I was steadfast in getting to where I had to be. Also, like most New Yorkers, I was walking against the tide. My fellow commuters were looking to get to where they needed to be, which was in the opposite direction of where I was heading.
There was an aggressively rude individual who was smashing his way through the crowd disregarding anyone in his path. He happened to be African American, and when he attempted to bowl me over, I braced myself and gave him a little resistance.
He set me off.
I immediately had thoughts that would not make my mother proud nor my wife and children for that matter. These hateful thoughts gratefully remained thoughts and were not spoken aloud. I say gratefully because somehow speaking them is worse than thinking them. Of course, that’s really not true.
I finally got to the 6 train and was able to get a seat as the uptown train was relatively empty at that time of the morning. However, these thoughts were on their way to rule and ruing my day.
As the train left the station, I felt the presence of someone hovering over me. I looked up to see another man, younger than my earlier adversary but also a man of color, smiling down at me.
Still, under the spell of my earlier encounter, I looked up and asked if there was a problem. But as I looked up at him, I had a weird sensation just looking at him smiling like that.
He asked me, “Are you a teacher?”
At that precise moment, I saw that He was Christ.
Realizing this, a wave of happiness, almost euphoria, washed over me. By his asking me if I was a teacher, He was reminding me that I was better than the guy I was when bumping into the man in Grand Central. I was better than the guy I was when I sat down on the 6 train.
I was reminded that just as I was able to recognize Christ in this man asking me if I was a teacher, I missed recognizing Christ in the African American man in Grand Central.
The lesson that I learned that day is not always remembered when someone cuts me off or when I am watching cable news and I often have to remind myself of my epiphany or, more often, listen to my daughter and read the books she gives me.
So, as we head into what promises to be a volatile 2020, let’s remember that Christ is in all of us and pray that other people recognize Christ in us.
We don’t need a hate list.