I don’t look up at the stars.
Sometime when I was a kid I remember sitting around a camp fire with a bunch of guys telling stories, burning marshmallows within an inch of edible, and poking the logs with a stick until the last scrap of wood was nothing but cold gray charcoal. I had to be about ten, away from home, in the wilderness of East Texas. Coyotes howled. Trees creaked. Winds moaned through the thick black all around me. And I wasn’t scared with all the other boys in sleeping bags surrounding me.
Until I looked up.
Away from the glow of the city the sky took on new proportions. I could see every one of the billion stars floating in the endless sea of black above me. I could feel the curve of the earth.
And I was suddenly aware that I wasn’t all there was, that I was only one kid on one of millions of balls hurling through infinity.
I felt smaller than small. I felt overwhelmed and I’ve been scared to look up ever since.
I saw this little girl today as we were walking to another child’s home. Her feet were bare. Her blanket was a newspaper. Her mother was nowhere in sight.
I knelt down to take her picture and somehow, through the hum of the city around us, she saw or heard me and turned. She stared into my eyes and I was under the stars again.
With the glow of my life 10,000 miles away – the to do lists and schedules, finances and errands, all snuffed out by the distance – perspective snuck up on me again.
And I’m in awe again of the beauty and profundity I’ve too often missed back home. I’m reminded how small I really am.
I’m just one man among six billion on one of millions of balls hurling through infinity.
My emotions are screaming look away! – It’s too scary! – but I’m not, because I need to be convinced all over again and often that I am small: I’m not too important to stoop and speak to a child. I’m not too busy to hear their stories. I’m not too perfect to learn from their faith. I’m not too grown up to laugh with them. I’m not too strong to cry for them. I’m not too broke to save one more.
I’m just small enough.
If you’re not, these stars might help.