Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Things are Not Always as They Appear

Come with me down the lane of "philosophizing", if you don't mind, and I hope you will learn with me. I am thinking as I go along, and learning as I write.

Things are not always as they appear. Nor are they always clear-cut. For example, right now, where and who are we? Are we rich or poor? (neither end of the spectrum, of course, though some might look at our situation and say one, and some might look at us and say the other). Do we rent or own our own home? (The last is a question I had to ask when someone would apply for a charge card at the department store where I recently worked). Here we sit in an upscale apartment in Baltimore County (with a two car garage!), which is being paid for by the new company my husband works for. But the apartment is only temporary and each night I look for an apartment where we can live after that. Back in Kentucky we own a home, but we are praying that it sells quickly and for a good price. It's absolutely essential that it sell quickly. So, is owning a home always a good thing? It was, but it isn't in a month or two.

Of course, the ultimate question right now regarding how much someone makes (a lot), what their owning/renting status is (questionable), and so on, is "Does it really matter?" And - for purposes of comparison but also for who the person is as a person - the answer is: no! It doesn't matter. We are all the same, regardless of whether we have a job, what our income is, how much we possess. All of that is not what makes us who we are. All of that is a house of cards. A person can one day be riding high financially and the next day be jobless. A person can one day be jobless (or have a business that is not adequate or is even draining their resources), and the next day have a wonderful job.

I was thinking of going on to say that what does matter, what makes us who we are, is character. And that is partially true. But even that - as it appears - is not all there is. Look at St. Paul who persecuted the Christians before He was knocked off his horse. Look at St. Augustine who was a player before his conversion (or so I've heard). They didn't suddenly go from a "bad person" to a "good person". The God-given potential was there all along, yes, but so were some good traits. Saul was very dedicated, we have to say that for him.

There are two (opposite) things that I've had brought home to me recently in a big way: One is that people WILL try to cheat. I learned that one while working at a department store...from observation and from my supervisor telling me that yes, it's really true (I needed to be aware, and I became aware). Those same people came to my register and were very human. The other thing that I have learned very profoundly, just recently, is how very, very mistaken we can be about someone's actions and choices. Things are not always as they appear. I found out recently that the gossip I had heard about someone in my youth was totally untrue...and here I had believed it for 37 years. I had seen not only the potential but the very real good in this person (like St. Paul with his dedication), but what I hadn't realized was that the "bad" I had heard, wasn't.

I was thinking just now: So, if someone is standing before us with a gun, THEN we can judge that person. But then I remembered a recent story in the Readers Digest. I think it was a hold-up in Indiana. At any rate, a young mother was held hostage. She told the man that she wanted to live for her young daughter. She treated him as a human being with feelings, who would have the compassion and understanding to save her life for her child. And he did.

As Mother Mary Potter wrote in a little devotional book (and I am paraphrasing, as the book is packed away in a box): We see someone who is a sinner and we wonder at them...when we could do them good by praying for them.

So, if I'm saying we can't judge people, do I believe that sometimes we have to judge a situation? Definitely. When someone asks us for money, for example, perhaps we have to make a judgement about whether this a good time to give money. Perhaps they are cheating - just trying to get money without working. Or they might want the money to support a drug habit that we might not want to support. Would I help them more by giving them food? A friend told me that her father buys grocery store gift cards to give to people who ask for help. What a wonderful idea. Another friend told us of her sons buying breakfast at McDonald's for a homeless man and bringing it to him. But whether we have to say "no, I'm sorry, I can't help you today", or whether we can help in some way, let us look at that person and see that here is a human being with potential...and maybe more than potential, maybe great character right here and now. Most of all, here is "Jesus"; as He said that what we do to others, we do to Him.

And believe me, I am talking to myself as much or more than to you who read this. Let us pray for one another. And please pray for us, that our house will sell quickly and well, and we will find the "right" place to live in the Baltimore area. Thank you so much, and God bless!