I went out for a walk this morning near the university campus and came across the fairly familiar sight of a student walking down the sidewalk with her head down, never lifting her eyes to anyone she passed. Perhaps she was simply wrapped up in her thoughts, mentally preparing for a physics midterm. Maybe in her posture there was nothing more than that.

But it got me thinking about the number of people who go through life with their heads down: afraid of the world and neighbours around them, their gaze an indication of their own self-evaluation. I am not worthy of holding my head up high. I am invisible.

One of my favourite short stories is “The Disappearance of Elaine Coleman,” by Steven Millhauser. The story is a somewhat fantastic tale of a woman who–as a result of years of being ignored by the community around her–one day disappears altogether. Literally vanishes from the world. It’s a sad story told from the perspective of one of the people in her town who saw her (now as he thinks back he can vaguely picture her presence, always a little blurry in his mind) but never gave her a moment’s thought. He comes to a harsh conclusion: “I killed Elaine Coleman.”

One of the essential truths of the gospel is that God has assigned to each of us an immense value. We were made in God’s image, and no matter what has gone on in our lives, we matter to God. God has spared no expense–even the cost of his Beloved Son’s life–to reach out to us in kindness and mercy. We are all encouraged to follow the apostle Paul’s lead in looking to Jesus Christ as the one “who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Lift up your head, raise your eyes: Jesus is looking your way, fixing his loving and gracious gaze on you. He notices you. You are not invisible.

Last night at bedtime it was my turn to read to the kids. Before our Bible story, we read the kids’ version of “How Full is Your Bucket?” I had heard of it before, but had never read it. The premise of the book is that we all have a “bucket” that is either being filled up (by encouraging words and healthy relationships) or emptied (by discouraging words and broken relationships) moment to moment. The kids were fascinated. “Do I have a bucket, Daddy?”

Well, Owen, sort of. We all do. And for the girl walking toward campus this morning, for Elaine Coleman, the bucket is pretty empty.

But in Christ God has given us a new word about ourselves, a new relationship with Him, and a new network of relationships with others. No one needs to carry an empty bucket.

It’s worth taking a little time to notice Elaine Coleman, wherever she may be, and put a few extra drops in her bucket today, in the name of Jesus who loves you and gave himself for you, and who loves her and gave himself for her.