Have you, like me, ever wondered what kind of an impression you make on people? Or more importantly, if you have any lasting impact on people’s lives?
Two thousand one hundred! Not a date but a number. Bono, the lead singer of rock band U2, known for his anti-poverty campaigns, notes that this is how many mentions of poverty there are in the Scriptures: “That’s a lot of airtime.”1 In the introduction to the Poverty and Justice Bible,2 the Bible Society adds, “A concern for the poor and an emphasis on just and fair behaviour flows through the Bible like a river. It underpins the laws of the Old Testament and resounds through the words of the prophets; it forms a core part of all that Jesus said and did and shapes the activities of those who followed him.”
I remember learning about the word “microcosm” when I was in fifth grade. As homework, our teacher handed each of us a 36-inch string and told us to make a circle on the ground. Then we were to look at everything within the circle, study it, and see what lived in our tiny world.
From then on I was fascinated with little worlds. I spent hours sitting in the grass creating environments for ants and little bugs. I made chairs out of leaves and gowns out of petals. I made tiny roads and houses out of twigs. But mostly I just watched.
In a series of experiments conducted a few years back, dogs were given the command “shake,” and they were normally happy to do so whether they got a reward or not. However, researchers found that if the dogs saw that another dog was being rewarded and they weren’t, they began hesitating to obey the command and eventually stopped cooperating altogether. The dogs knew when they were being treated unfairly, and they didn’t like it.1 If even dogs can understand when something isn’t fair, how much more will people know when they’re being treated unfairly!
Giving up some of the things we enjoy or desire can seem like a sacrifice, but when we get to heaven and see things in proper perspective, we’ll be ashamed that we didn’t make those little sacrifices more cheerfully.
About a year ago, I sprained my ankle quite badly coming out of the movie theater and needed to go to the hospital for an x-ray and to have it properly bandaged. Thankfully, nothing was broken, but the swelling lasted a few days, and it was some time before I could walk normally.
Later, when I was reflecting on this unexpected mishap, the main thing that struck me from all that had happened was the kindness of strangers. Here is what I mean:
Manifesting God’s love to those whom He places in our path each day is at the heart of Christian life. Writing about this, the apostle Paul went so far as to say, "the love of Christ compels us"1 to do so. In whatever specific ways God leads each of us to reach our part of the world with His love, He has called us to be “the light of the world” and to “let [our] light shine before people, so that they will see [our] good works and give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven.”2
There have been times when I’ve felt I was playing a game of pretending to be a good person; for instance, when I was volunteering for relief work after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Part of me sincerely wanted to help and make a difference, but I also knew it was what I should want to do, and I was happy to be seen as someone who wanted to help.
One of the central questions that philosophers and theologians have struggled with for millennia is the mystery of what gives life meaning. Everyone wants to be happy and fulfilled, but how can we tell what true happiness is and where it comes from?
It’s easy to be a good person but still be wrapped up in your own little world. After all, you already have more work and other responsibilities than you feel you can keep up with. It’s no surprise that there’s so little time for reaching out to others.