I've heard a lot of great quotes in my years as a reporter, but Cookie Santiago took me by surprise yesterday when she threw me a new one. She said when someone says something insensitive to her instead of trying to assign evil motives or intentions to their words she tries to see the situation through "Jesus eyes." She imagines and sometimes explores what bad things might be going on in the person's life that might prompt hateful or simply negligent behavior. She puts on her "Jesus eyes."
Coming from someone else talking about putting on "your Jesus eyes" might not sound as sincere, but Santiago who is a minister with the United Methodist Church in North Carolina appears to be living every ounce of the phrase.
She is raising two daughters, working, and attending Duke Divinity School all at the same time. If that's not enough she is also still mourning the death of her only son, Diego, who died after a long battle with cancer two years ago. Santiago asks for no pity as she talks frankly about the hardships of watching her son die one painful day at a time. Instead, she talks about the blessing of her oldest daughter who took time off from college to care for Santiago's younger daughters while she and her husband attended to her son's medical needs.
As I do with every parent I meet who has been through such a tragedy I asked her how she managed to survive.
"It is important to embrace suffering and not run away from our pain," Santiago says with what I now realize is her trademark smile, one that she uses both to draw in and disarm people.
Santiago also embraces people who she does not agree with in the hopes that they may find some common ground.
"I'm coming to you with a heart full of grace and love," she says. And I'm pretty sure she means it. The only question I have is where can I get some of these "Jesus eyes?"