Gina Christian

“We need more eyeballs,” said the sales manager, tapping his pen on the table and turning toward me. “Go get us some.”

I smothered a smirk and nodded. The manager’s directive sounded more like the recipe for a Harry Potter spell than what it actually was: an assignment to increase the number of visitors (or, in marketing shorthand, “eyeballs”) to our company’s website.

The task was no easy one in today’s “attention economy,” where businesses fight to attract potential customers through digital media. Most of us don’t stay on a given website long; within 10 to 20 seconds, we flit like hummingbirds to the next link or Facebook update or text message. Working to engage viewers for extended periods can leave social media posters frustrated and fearful: if you tweet and no one reads (or likes, or retweets) it, does it exist? Do you exist?

Paradoxically, the more connected our world has become, the more lost and insignificant we can feel within it. We’re desperate to “Insta” our 2 p.m. latte so that “they” will know who we are and what we’re doing, but when others take no notice, we’re left to cry in our coffee alone — while mulling over how we can post something big and win the mass approval we crave.

A young French woman who died a hundred years before the launch of Facebook found a much better method for satisfying the desire for validation. Instead of trying to make a name for herself, St. Thérèse of Lisieux sought “a means of getting to Heaven by a little way.”

Conceding that she was “too tiny to climb the steep stairway of perfection” due to her “many imperfections,” she simply placed herself in the arms of Christ, trusting in him to “raise [her] up even unto heaven.”

St. Thérèse described this “Little Way” as one of “spiritual childhood, the way of absolute trust and surrender.” Seeing herself as the Lord’s “Little Flower,” she offered to Jesus “little sacrifices” so as to “win him by a caress.” Attracting the divine gaze was, for her, not a matter of dazzling, but rather of doing the “most ordinary” things with great love: “I look for little opportunities, for the smallest trifles, to please my Jesus: a smile or a kind word, for instance, when I would wish to be silent, or to show that I am bored.”

When we encounter souls who embrace this Little Way, we are touched and transformed. Lori, a subway worker I frequently saw on my commute, radiated a serene gentleness even in the chaos of the morning rush hour. As harried train riders swirled around her, often snapping if the turnstile lines were moving slowly, Lori patiently directed them, assisting those unfamiliar with the station’s layout, chatting warmly with regulars.

One day, I asked Lori how she managed to remain so sunny amid the station’s gritty gloom.  

She smiled. “Oh, I offer my work to Jesus,” she said, and quoted Colossians 3:23-24: “Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others, knowing that you will receive from the Lord the due payment of the inheritance; be slaves of the Lord Christ.”

Although the world may take no notice, such small, everyday sacrifices draw the eye of the One who formed the eye — and that’s all the attention we really need, and the only kind that, in the metrics of eternity, really counts.

***

Gina Christian is a senior content producer at CatholicPhilly.com and host of the Inside CatholicPhilly.com podcast. Follow her on Twitter at @GinaJesse Reina.