Last year, I went to a sold-out concert at the Rose Bowl.
Organizers said there were 100,000 people there. I kept thinking, "This is what it would look like if my whole city were together in one place."
Actually, there are a few more of us in Costa Mesa, so you could put your kids on your lap and we'd all fit. The numbers I have seen say that 3.3 billion people live in cities around the world and that number is growing. That is practically half of our new world population: 7 billion.
I have lived in six cities in my lifetime from Caracas, Venezuela, to Des Moines, Iowa. But there is only one city that I have truly loved: Costa Mesa, my hometown.
Loving a whole Rose Bowl of people seems overwhelming and quite impractical; however, as I reflect on being one of 7 billion people, I pause to consider how I interact if not with the 6,999,999,999 others, then at least 113,439 neighbors in Costa Mesa.
With all of the numbers swirling around, it seems the only way to go about this is one-to-one. What does it look like to honor the dignity of the person in front of me right now?
Right now that means looking the barista in the eye.
Yesterday, I probably should have gotten off of my phone in the check-out line. Earlier this week, engaging the one in front of me meant blowing off a meeting to pick up a friend at the hospital.
It means I probably should not have ignored my grandmother's call.
I saw a guy in the coffee shop quietly attend to the guy next to him, who was clearly coming down off of something. He was not dramatic. He was present, and he was kind.
What does being present with one of 7 billion people look like for you today?
How about one of the two people in your relationship, or one of the five people in your home or the dozen people in your office?
We are all here bumping into each other all day long, which probably merits a few moments of thought about how we will intentionally engage in ways that honor one another.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not one of these people who believe that being nice to each other will solve all our problems. I'm under the conviction that we need love and justice.
We need systems around us that hold up our best principles, and systems are not about individuals, per se. But there is something about considering the person in front of us that postures us well to form and confront systems that will serve the common good.
This week, I have been reminded again that consideration and kindness are graces we can give one another. We can give it more freely when we have received it.
We can pursue justice better when we are rooted in love. And we can invite each other to be present even with billions of neighbors around. I'm off to call my grandma back.
CRISSY BROOKS is co-founder and executive director of Mika Community Development Corp., a faith-based nonprofit in Costa Mesa, where she lives.