Just a year after the first French version of the book The Gentle Art of Blessing (now available in seven languages*) I came across an amazing article in one of the leading German-Swiss newspapers, (the Tages Anzeiger of April 15, 1999), concerning a retired nurse, Frieda, who felt led to undertake an amazing task – or mission would be a better word. Two days ago I saw a brief film on this amazing woman.
Fourteen hours a day, and for well over ten years (one railway employee who worked at the station said 15 years), Frieda stood in the busiest section of the station … simply blessing people. She refused to grant any interviews explaining simply that she had felt led by God to undertake this task. Her example touched me very specially because her definition of blessing was exactly the same as the one in the text on The Gentle Art of Blessing: wanting the real good for people, events, situations, you name it.
Over the years, Frieda must have blessed millions of people. Her eyes would constantly move from one person to the other as the rested her arms on her wheelchair. She would only take an occasional brief rest on the chair. Someone brought her to the station in the morning and would fetch her late at night. All one knows is that she lived in a home for the elderly.
Her story made me think of the famous book written in 19th century Russia concerning a pilgrim of modest origin who travels for years seeking a reply to the question of how to pray continually, as the apostle Paul bids his readers. A starets (spiritual leader) teaches him to pray constantly the short prayer, “Lord Christ Jesus have mercy upon me”. Used as a kind of mantra, the prayer works deeply into the heart of the pilgrim and not only transforms him but touches all those who meet him.
Frieda was a 20th and 21st century “still” pilgrim in her own way, and I am ready to believe that her ultimate impact on the world may have been far beyond that whom the media call “the movers” of today.
You too, friend, can bless anyone or anything, everywhere, at any time, all the time.
Translations *) English, French Spanish, Italian, German, Dutch, Danish, Slovene early 2013