Bringing Heaven to Earth

Scientists think they have discovered a key to the secret to living a long life. They studied the lives of dozens of people who had lived to the age of 100 or more. They were trying to find clues linking behavior or lifestyle choices to longevity. Their studies left many surprised. The people in the study weren’t major health fanatics. They weren’t all vegetarians or non-drinkers. Some had smoked cigarettes for periods of their lives. Their parents had died at average ages, so it wasn’t genetics. They weren’t into exercising consistently. But the one thing that almost all of them had in common was a tight circle of friends, a support system throughout their lives. The people in those circles probably changed at various points in their lives, but they always had people to lean on, people who depended on them.
We live in a time when we can still feel lonely despite the presence of social media or the ability to call a person on any part of the globe and be connected to them in a matter of seconds. Now more than ever, we are overwhelmingly aware of what is going on in one another’s lives. We know everything from what our co-worker had for dinner to the gender of a new baby born hours before. So how can this epitomize a world of people who feel depressed and alone?
Because in a world where we constantly have a screen open for all the world to see “our lives”, what we are hiding or not being shown by others is the suffering, the inadequacy, the loneliness that every single one of us feels when we compare our imperfect story to someone else’s highlight reel. We have lost touch with the thing that makes us most beautiful: Our souls.
I’ve said it before but I think it bears repeating: We are not physical beings trying to live a spiritual life. We are spiritual beings living a physical life. Our spirits, or souls, are TRULY who we are. I’m NOT my gray hair, my crow’s feet, my scars, my self-centeredness, my fears, or my failings as a human being. I am impeca5d0e52857814c27524c24146f2e672rfect, but I am so much more than my short-comings. I am a soul, created by the highest power. All of us are. The ugliest, clumsiest, saddest ones of us are all made by the One. We are most greatly affected by the energy of other souls. We thrive on positive energy and are destroyed by negativity. If we surround ourselves with good, if we channel our thoughts toward gratitude and focus on our blessings and not the things we do not have, our lives are full of light, joy, and love.
I heard something not long ago that made me pause. Jesus didn’t come to earth to help us get to heaven. Jesus came here to help us bring heaven to earth. If I’m being honest, humanity is screwing it up badly right now.
Nikolas Cruz is a 19-year-old boy who will live the rest of his days in infamy. He killed seventeen people and injured many others. I keep hearing these stories and always amidst my tears and anger, come back to the simple question of, “Why does this keep happening?” I wanted to learn about Nikolas. People kept saying there were red flags. But when did they start popping up? Was he always a troubled person? I found out he was adopted. His adoptive parents are both now deceased, his mother very recently, in fact. He had been living with a friend when he committed the shootings.
But here is where I am stuck: He was once a child. He probably made animals out of hand prints just like my kids have. He probably passed out paper Valentine cards to his friends in grade school. He probably lived a normal kid’s life at one point. His younger brother lived the same life. Why didn’t he react the way Nikolas did?
What happens for a baby to grow into a killer? How does a person snap? How does a person become so broken that they think taking a life (or lives in this case) will be the answer? Several accounts of people interviewed about Nikolas said he seemed lonely, that it may have been his mother’s death in November that exacerbated the situation. But there is that word again: LONELY. Alone. In this world, how can a person ever feel alone? We can’t escape people if we try! I’m not saying Nikolas couldn’t feel lonely, I’m asking why he did. There are support groups all over social media to help people going through trauma. Why didn’t those help?
Because we have lost the true connection to one another and to ourselves. In our world, people try make that connection with things. Elaborate parties, clothes, food, money, drugs, alcohol, sex, fame, greed, anger, violence, and worse. And when we realize it’s love we need most of all, we don’t know where to look for that because everything is so fake and hollow. Having a real conversation with a compassionate, breathing human being seems far-fetched.
My kids have this book called, “You Are Special,” by Max Lucado. If I could afford to buy every person in this world a copy, I would. It’s a parable about these wooden people, the Wemmicks. They go around sticking dots on each other for their imperfections. They also put stars on the ones who are beautiful or talented. Punchinello is one of the wooden people with many dots. He is ashamed and only spends time with Wemmicks who are flawed like him. One day he meets a Wemmick named Lucia who has no dots or stars stuck to her. Curious, he asks her why and she tells him to go talk to Eli, the one who made them. So Punchinello goes to Eli. He tells Punchinello that the stars and dots don’t stick to Lucia because she has learned and believes that it doesn’t matter what the other Wemmicks think of her. She has faith in Eli’s love alone. She goes to see Eli every day and he reminds her that he loves her and he doesn’t make junk. So she believes in herself. Her faith is a sort of protective armor from the opinions of others. Eli tells Punchinello to do the same and the moment he starts to believe it, one of his dots falls off.
It’s a children’s story. But it speaks to me so much that I am always crying by the last page and my kids are laughing at me. But it’s a moral for all of us: God is here all the time. He’s waiting for us to turn off our screens and to stop passing judgement on ourselves and each other. He’s in our hearts. He’s begging us to listen and to be there for one another.
God is shouting to us from the lonely kid in the cafeteria wanting nothing more than a friend. God is calling to us from the nursing home where our elderly, alone and forgotten, are just waiting to leave this world. God is with the poor man I saw on the side of the road last week, standing in the snow holding a sign that said, “Even a smile will help.” God is begging for us to hear him and see him again, not in a blaze of light or an apocalyptic event, but in simple opportunities for kindness toward each other.
Even if you’re not Catholic, or if you don’t celebrate Lent, I am asking if you would do something for forty days. Maybe it will be a habit that lasts longer. I tell my kids all the time, Lent isn’t only about sacrifice. It can also be adding something positive to your life. Every day, just do one random act of kindness. It doesn’t have to be something big. As the homeless man pointed out, even a smile can help. It all has a ripple effect. And who knows, your smile could literally change the world.