I think that moment was a classic example of who John Paul II really was. He wasn't afraid to reach out to people to make a personal connection while at the same time proclaiming the message of hope. I grew up during his pontificate and look back fondly at John Paul II as not only a spiritual leader but also a true hero to so many Catholics. His profound influence on young Catholics gave birth to the terms "John Paul II generation" and "John Paul II priests". I personally know many young orthodox priests and Catholics that cite our late Holy Father as their inspiration.
In spite of his charisma and popularity, Blessed John Paul II was a man of deep humility and devotion. His papal motto "Totus Tuus" brilliantly reflected that. Those simple Latin words set the theme of his pontificate and his life: total entrustment of his life and ministry to the Blessed Virgin Mother Mary. (John Paul II credited those words to St. Louis-Marie de Monfort (1673-1716). "Totus tuus ego sum, et omnia mea tua sunt," -- "I am all yours, and all that is mine is yours.").
I could on and on about the difference that Blessed John Paul II made in this world. From his part in the fall of Communism, to energizing thousands of youths at World Youth Day, to his amazing insights in the Theology of the Body, God worked wonderful things through John Paul II. He was a truly holy teacher, shepherd, servant and, to quote Tom Peters of American Papist, a "spiritual grandfather" to a generation of Catholics.
I remember watching the news when it was announced that John Paul II had died. I clearly recall feeling at that moment as if I had just lost a grandfather. These memories came back to me when I read Tom Peters blog post about John Paul II being our spiritual grandfather. I could think of no better way to describe the affection that so many Catholics of my generation had towards our Blessed late Pope. I'll end this with one final quote from Mr. Peters' blog post about Blessed John Paul II:
Thank you for showing us the light, the truth and the way, grandpa. We miss you.