This should be easy, I thought as I prepared to enter high school. I didn’t expect to have any problems making friends or interacting with my classmates. Unfortunately, my confidence was shattered on the very first day of school, when I met the boy seated next to me in class.
Sean was about my height but twice my weight. He was careless in his studies, never studied for exams, and yelled and cursed at teachers and students alike. He bragged endlessly about the violent computer games he played every chance he got, and their influence was evident in his angry, destructive behavior. I quickly wished I didn’t have to sit next to him.
There are some people that we like more than others; and let's face it, some people like us more than other people do.
When I worked as a nurse in the emergency room of a hospital in Reykjavik, Iceland, I was quite self-assured and felt I could deal with pretty much any situation. I liked the action, the adrenaline rush, and always volunteered for the toughest cases.
We used to get some of the same patients over and over again—alcoholics, drug abusers, derelicts. I was young and I didn’t mind them. Some of them were actually nice, funny, lonely guys who simply needed a warm bed and were genuinely sorry for making a mess of their lives. They would usually be on their best behavior if they were treated with care.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
—Matthew 5:9 NIV
We who work for peace must not falter. We must continue to pray for peace and to act for peace in whatever way we can, we must continue to speak for peace and to live the way of peace; to inspire others, we must continue to think of peace and to know that peace is possible.
—Peace Pilgrim (1908–1981), born Mildred Lisette Norman, pacifist and peace activist
I recently watched the movie Love and Other Drugs, a romantic comedy based on Jamie Reidy's memoir, Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman.
While I thought the film was a mixed bag, it did have a down-to-earth kind of love story that wasn’t your typical movie romance or a common Hollywood storyline: young and beautiful Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway) has an incurable degenerative illness—Parkinson’s disease. That sort of made up for the parts that I didn’t enjoy, because in real life, in the real world, in real relationships, things like that happen.
“Who are you here to see?” the petite dark-haired nurse asked as I sipped tea in the waiting area and scrawled in my journal.
“My nephew,” I answered with a smile. “He’s asleep, though, so I’ll wait.”
“Oh, he really needs visitors. He’s still a child,” she said in her motherly way. Although my nearly full-grown teenage nephew now towers over me when he’s not wasting away in a hospital bed, I still remember his chubby cheeks and legs when I first held him at three months old.
“I knew you would come!” said a frail grandmother as she gripped my hand tightly.
It was Christmastime, and my children and I had been visiting retirement homes and orphanages, as we had done each of the last few years. At orphanages we would do our best to entertain the orphans by organizing games and performing, and we would also distribute presents that our sponsors had provided. We also passed out small gifts and performed at the retirement homes, but usually my children’s presence was enough to delight the elderly residents. “What adorable children!” was a chorus that I heard often.
Two years ago, some friends and I took boxes of food to families who had been displaced by the February 2010 earthquake and tsunami in Constitución, Chile, and were still living in makeshift camps ten months later. Margarita, one of the volunteers, had taken a collection of Christmas decorations in her office building, so we included a few of those in each box, along with a copy of the Christmas issue of Conéctate (the Spanish edition of Activated) and a CD of Christmas music. One person in Margarita’s office had also donated a Christmas tree, which we also took with us, even though we didn’t know exactly what we would do with it.
Some Christians give Christianity a bad name because of their strongly judgmental attitudes,which come across as self-righteousness. Such people may think they are upholding the faith or standing for good causes, but their pronouncements are often harsh and overlook the fact that God loves all people, including those who have rejected or not understood Him. When we interact with people whom we feel are in the wrong, God still expects us to respect them as people whom He created and loves.
God doesn’t condone evil or wrongdoing and neither should we, but we also need to bear in mind that Jesus taught through both word and example that judgment should be tempered by mercy and forgiveness.1 We may be convinced that someone’s actions are wrong or misguided, but God still expects us to be compassionate with the person.2 We may not agree with others’ beliefs or approve of their actions, but that doesn’t make it right to adopt a judgmental attitude toward those people. We need to consider how Jesus would respond, and act accordingly.
Often our world is all we know. Our world has been shaped by our experience—where we have been, who we have known, what we have done—as well as by our habits, standards, and aspirations. When we see a man sleeping in a doorway or a woman asking for help in a slurred voice, we compare their condition with our world. We may assume there is something fundamentally wrong with someone in such a state.
In truth, poverty puts people into a different world. The homeless person sleeping in the doorway may not have been able to rest the night before because he was guarding his few possessions. Thatwoman may have an untreated medical condition that affects her speech.
I stared past the rusty window frame, out of the bus. The day was off to a gloomy start and so was I. Lost in thought, recalling things that would have been better left forgotten, I sank into a dark mood. Sad, isn’t it, how when we’re feeling down we tend to busy our mind with thoughts that only waste our time and further sap our spirits?
The bus rolled to a halt. Again. Manila traffic. I glanced at my watch. 6 a.m. Too early for traffic to be moving this slowly. I had a deadline to meet and hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before. Angrily, I turned back to the window.