I consider myself a kind and caring person. Someone that would help anyone in need. But the other night I found myself in a situation that forced me to ponder how cynical I have become. Here’s what happened.
Last Monday I was at a wonderful Pub Theology event called Cocktails and Conversations. It was a beautiful evening filled with amazing conversation and new connections. The community we shared brought new life to the Bible story we discussed. It was a wonderful evening.
As we were leaving The Pub Pastor (Daron Earlewine) and I was talking in the parking lot. It was late but our conversation was alive. Suddenly I caught a glimpse of someone cutting through the parking lot. I turned and politely nodded at the gentleman walking by.
Next thing I knew he turned and said, “Sorry to bother you guys…” Immediately I knew what was coming. My mind raced too quickly come up with the best cover story I could think of.
“Sorry man, I don’t have any cash on me.”
Nope, that’s a lie…
“My wallet is in the car man, next time.”
My phone case is my wallet…crap.
As I continued to file through my no-you-can’t-have-my-money excuses in hopes that my silence would give this guy a hint, Daron began to ask this guy about his story. “What are you doing, Daron?”, I thought to myself. “We were having a great conversation before “this guy” showed up.”
What we learned was that he said he recently had been released from prison and didn’t have a place to stay. He was hungry and needed some money to get on the bus to meet his parole officer in the morning. As he told us his story all I could think was…
You’re not hungry, you just want a drink.
Bus money is just an excuse to get more money from us.
You probably live down the street with your other drug addicted friends.
Before I could finish thinking of an excuse Daron pulled out his wallet and handed the guy $10. “Oh no”, I thought. Now it’s on me. As his eyes shifted and connected with mine I just stared back. He nodded, and just like that was gone.
Facing My Decision
As I drove home I began to think about what had happened and how I responded. Pulling in my driveway I said to myself, “You are what’s wrong with the world.”
My prejudice against this man, someone I’ve never met, was unfair and uncalled for. Yes, you could say that stereotypes had clouded my judgment and that often they are pretty close to being right. But is that really fair? Do we like being lumped into stereotypes like I chose to do so quickly?
Reading this story maybe you can see yourself in it. You can see how it’s easy to look at the outside of others and begin to make judgments based on our limited information. We all do it, but especially in today’s culture, I believe it’s important that we become aware of our subconscious ideas of others. It’s time to call them out for what they are and bring them into the light.
Time For Change
Sitting in my driveway I made a commitment to myself to make a change. It won’t be easy, but it’s time to start taking responsibility for my thoughts and actions towards others. Here are 3 things I’m going to start doing. Maybe you’ll join me in them?
- Slowly judge the situation. Within 3 seconds of our interaction the other night I had already made up my mind about who this guy was and what his intentions were. I came to a full conclusion before he asked us anything. Moving forward I want to slowly judge other’s and their situations.
- Be open to hearing their story. Daron was so kind to begin to ask this guy about his story. What happened to him. Did he have a place to stay that night. When and where he needed to be. He was genuinely interested in hearing his story in order to help. Moving forward I need to be open to hearing the whole story.
- Quickly see them as people. Because I was so quick to judge I only saw our friend as the sum of his decisions and not as a human being. I saw the surface of the situation instead of looking beyond it to see a man in need. How quickly I forget that I could be just like him at any point in my life. How quickly I forget that. It’s time to start seeing people as people.
Now I know we all could come up with excuses and reasons to why this guy was lying or playing us for our money. But if we stopped and really thought about it? Does it matter? Are we responsible for his actions?
Let’s learn to slow down and start seeing people for who they really are…just like us.
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For too long I have tried to play God in the lives of those around me, instead of seeing them as human beings I can help. I can only be responsible for my actions. Moving forward I want to be ready and willing to be slow to judge, open to hearing other’s stories, and quick to see them as people.
Will you join me?
Question: Have you ever had a situation bring you completely face to face with who you really are? What did you learn from it?
Originally published on Wordpress