“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
I used to work for an experiential education company—creating teambuilding experiences for corporate groups and sports teams. There was often times talk of a particular and very successful sports psychologist who worked closely within our company. He trained with some of the best college and professional athletes; spending long hours coaching them, exercising their psychological framework, getting to the root of their psyche and uncovering how it affects (good or bad) their ‘game.’ He would oftentimes be quoted with saying: “Right now-in this very moment, you are the most important person in the world to me.” How intense, right? This man, Coach demonstrated that value by the way he lived, and how he did the work he did. His legacy of how he was with people remained ignited long after he left.
With this same company, one of the experiential education practices we facilitated was through guided high ropes course experiences. Have you ever been 30+ feet above the ground? Let me paint the picture of a ropes course—you are harnessed into some ropes and straps that have you “safely” treading between obstacles in the tree line, 30 or more feet above terra firma. Below is a new friend, coworker or teammate—belaying you (pulling in the slack of rope as you make your way through the obstacles). During these still and serious moments, you want to know you’re pretty dang important to the person who is holding your ropes and really your life down on the ground, don’t you? What if they decided to send a quick text on their phone while you leaped for the next obstacle—generating a few feet of slack in your rope? What if they took their attention off of you--valuing something else entirely in that moment? How would that action make a person feel?
On the contrary, what if that person was completely focused and centered on your wellbeing? Attentive to your success of moving through the ropes course obstacles? (Any life connections, yet?) How doesthis action make a person feel?
So, on being a better neighbor; What kind of safety, what kind of security, what kind of value, what kind of dignity and honor does that give a person, when their simple humanness is what makes them important?
“Wherever you are, be all there.” –Jim Elliot
All of this makes me think of the ways that my ultimate Teacher, Jesus has demonstrated wherever you are, be all there. For example;
- Jesus visiting with a shameful woman at the town watering hole (John 4:4-30, 39-42)
- Jesus touching a diseased, outcast person (Mark 1:40-45)
- Jesus spending time with the money swindlers (Matthew 9:9-13)
- Jesus calling out and discipling the lowly, day laborers (Luke 5:1-11)
- Jesus speaking to an adulterous woman (Mark 8:1-11)
And because Jesus is my ultimate teacher, he is calling me to learn from his 33 human years on earth, to be with people. To look above the shame, the sin, the mistakes, regrets or the vast differences that can disconnect—to look beyond ‘those things’ to the core humanness as an image bearer; created in God’s Image.
So, I challenge you: Set your heart and mind to be where you are, wherever that is; fully, attentively, and simply. It might take only 3 minutes out of your day to say hello to a neighbor, follow up with them about something you knew they had coming up, and just focus in on the person in front you, making them the most important thing in the world.
Because when we are really being with the person in front of us, fully, we help restore people back to themselves. And that’s what the world needs; whole people.