Do you remember what it was like when you were younger? Do you remember those awkward teenage years from middle school through high school? What was life like for you back then? Were you really popular, were you a sports star, how about the class clown, or maybe you were the social outcast that nobody gave a second thought.
I remember those years painfully all to well. I was a social outcast. Growing up in a small country town, people assumed lots of things about each other; reputations were established very early and for the most part held. After being out of high school for 20+ years, I still keep in touch with a few folks who went through it with me. When we get in a discussion about it I am taken back and can remember events, sights and smells as if I am back in that moment again.
I remember thinking that all the really cool and popular people would make something of their lives. They would be the ones to be the most successful; they would really change the world. Funny I am not sure why that was just assumed. I know others who had drive and ambition, who were bound and determined they were going to do something with their lives. Now it doesn’t really matter, but back then it did. As I have gotten older, I understand so much better why kids did the things they did. The picture is much clearer now. So many more things make sense. The story comes together.
God has given me the ability to really read people. He’s also given me a great desire and passion for psychology, which is why I work in social work. I didn’t really understand this before, but in doing this type of work for the lat 15 years, God has used this job to my benefit. No matter if it’s my friends, my employees or others I want to understand where people are coming from; I want to figure out why people do the things they do, why they make the choices they make. What makes a person tick?
Prior to this job, I never really cared much about people; in fact I really disliked people. I was incredibly negative and judgmental. I could find fault with anyone. I wasn’t interested in looking out for anyone but myself or maybe a very close friend of mine. I had been so used to no one caring about me and rejecting me that I let it turn me into a callous, heartless person.
I would have never guessed how God would turn things around through my jobs. I have worked with developmentally disabled adult, adults with mental illnesses and people who are or have been homeless. You’d be surprised at what I have heard over the years. There is truly nothing that shocks me. I have heard horror stories beyond belief. I’ve seen what addictions due to people. I’ve seen people who were the all-stars in their high school transformed into the homeless person on the street.
In listening to people’s stories, I see into what was and what is. How a life you thought would go one way, turned and headed in a vastly different direction you never even imagined. I am able to see beyond the appearance and into the person. Sitting their listening I hear a person who wants to be loved and accepted, who is looking for help, for someone to come in and make life better for them. They are looking to be redeemed, to feel loved, accepted and whole. They are looking for what we are all looking for.
Some of us are afraid to talk about our stories, they are ugly, they are dirty and they are reminders of things we don’t like about ourselves. On the other hand, we are not the first and we certainly won’t be the last person to have those experiences. By talking about our stories and willingness to share, it helps us better understand that I am not so different from you. The other side is that your story is about you and the journey you’re on, despite what life hands you, you’re still valuable, you’re still important and that we have a God who loves us more than we could ever imagine.
When we help another person, take time to really look into their eyes, listen to the words that come out of their mouth; really hear their story, you get the opportunity to be Jesus to them. They too once had a dream, they had goals and aspirations and I am pretty sure for many folks, this was not part of what they had envisioned. I believe that every life is valuable. God designed us with gifts and talents. He made us all for a purpose. Their story is important, just like my story and your story is important.
The next time you see someone you don’t know, how will you respond, will you pass them by, will you see the person or will you see the outer package. The next time someone passes you, what would you hope they see?