I was sitting on a cement step, leaning against a doorframe, watching the crowds move like living waves across the Cour Napoléon, the courtyard surrounding the giant glass pyramid that serves as the primary entrance for the Louvre Museum in Paris. My travel journal was open on my lap, but I wasn’t writing much; the scene in front of me was entrancing , and I could hardly believe it was real.
It was 2003. I was a junior in college, and I’d worked hard to save enough to spend a semester studying abroad. My home base was in a suburb of London, but I wanted to see the Eiffel Tower before returning to the United States, so I spent a day in Paris.
I didn’t notice the man until he was standing right in front of me. I was intent on memorizing every moment of my day in Paris. He said something, but as I’d been on French soil no more than six hours and had memorized only a few of the most necessary phrases in French, I had no idea what it was.
My awkward smile and quick shake of the head told him all he needed to know, and he smiled and said in accented English, “May I sit?”
And so began one of the most unexpected conversations I’ve had to this day. We simply chatted there on the doorstep about school, travel, and, to my great surprise, faith. This young man didn’t claim any religion, but he respected those who did. He asked a lot of questions, and I answered as best I could.
We must have talked for an hour, and I watched the pyramid at the center of the plaza glow brighter as the sky around us grew darker. Eventually I bid the gentleman good night, and as we stood together, he looked me in the eye and said, “If I ever meet another Seventh-day Adventist, I will know they are a good person, because I have met you.”
That comment has stayed with me all these years because it’s a humbling reminder (and perhaps a warning) that I represent something bigger than myself. Someone bigger than myself.
I’m reminded of that childhood memory verse, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).* The world watches what we do, and—correctly or not—they judge the character of Christ based on who we are or seem to be. Somehow I managed to shine a bright light that evening, but I’m sure there are plenty of other moments when my behavior was not so flattering.
That experience in Paris taught me that as I go about my daily life, I must be aware that even simple interactions—placing my order at a restaurant, driving in traffic, responding to a delayed flight, talking with my children—can leave an impression not only of my own character but of Christ’s. And I must be mindful, always.
* From The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Becky St. Clair is a freelance writer living in California with her husband and three children. She has a decade of experience in public relations for the church, and currently writes and copyedits for various church entities around the world.