My friend had just arrived in Alabama, where I lived at the time. I was still single and dating Charlotte who I would eventually marry. My friend and I dropped by my future father-in-law’s office. He was the president of a small bible college that he gave his life, passion, and heart to, for many years. I introduced him to my friend who was from out of state. He invited us to sit down and visit with him. We had been talking for a few minutes when the telephone rang. He answered the call and said, "Please hold all of my calls. I am in an important conversation with some gentlemen."
My father-in-law had a way of making people feel important. Somehow he managed to communicate to many people that they had great value. I was on the other end of these conversations many times. He communicated to me again and again that I was a person of great value. He would comment on good qualities he saw in me. Though he died a number of years ago, I continue to remember and treasure many of these conversations.
I have been around many other people who communicate something very different to others.
- The minister who passionately communicates his "deal" (whatever he happens to be passionate about at the time). Those who receive it are "friends." Those who raise questions or differ "just don’t get it."
- The business person who sees friendship as a way to gain advantage. She has little use for those who don’t forward her agenda in some way.
- The person who values the attractive, the wealthy, the popular, etc. Yet, the average or "regular" people get ignored.
- The guy who goes through his day totally focused on himself, his comfort, and what he desires.
What would today be like if I were to genuinely treat the people who I interact with as if they were valuable? How can we say that people are made in the image of God and then treat them as if they were invisible?
I’m not talking about trying to do something to people or trying to create a feeling in them. No, I am talking about a way of treating someone that is real and authentic. I want to treat a person as valuable because I genuinely believe he or she is valuable.
Where do you start with this? You start by simply paying attention to people.
- Pay attention to your wife or husband.
- Pay attention to your dad or mom when they call you on the telephone. Pay attention instead of rushing through the conversation so that you can go about your day.
- Pay attention to the check-out person at Wal-Mart.
- Pay attention to the people at work who often get little recognition or expressions of appreciation.
- Pay attention to people around you who may be hesitant to speak or risk in any way.
- Pay attention to those who really offer you no advantage. It is easy to pay attention to those who in some way have something to offer you. What about those who don’t?
- Pay attention to those who need encouragement. I’ve been to ministry conferences where some ministers seem to get focused on being noticed by a big name minister. Meanwhile, they completely ignore the average, hard working ministers around them who faithfully serve their communities and churches.
I don’t always pay attention. At times, I get in my own world and miss people. I do think this is worth the effort, however. The value is not to be found in anything you or I will get out of this. The value is to be found in being Jesus-like.
I think that’s enough.