Friday, October 16, 2015

How Do You Treat People Who Aren't Considered Normal?

How do you usually respond when seeing someone at work, school, the grocery store, or walking by who is likely labeled as awkward, insecure, strange, or different? Is your first reaction one of cringing and wanting to avoid any contact with them, hoping they won't look up as you walk by or they don't stand in line or sit next to you in class? Do you join with others in making fun of their appearance, voice, manner, attire, or personality? Do you see them as less than valuable or make quick judgments based upon the limited amount of info you know about them (if any)?

What thoughts do you have towards people who wouldn't be considered normal by society's standards? It could be people who are mentally ill or look terribly depressed, those who are impoverished or not the fairest in appearance. Do you see them as dirty or gross, odd or unworthy of being friends with or showing kindness toward? Would you ever consider standing out from the crowd and doing the opposite of what the majority does in situations like this by instead extending gracious words, a helping hand, or the offer of friendship to them?

It is amazing how quickly we judge other people and form ideas about them when in reality we know little to nothing about them and what has made them who they are today. We don't know what their childhood was like, the sort of parents or family they grew up around, whether they have suffered abuse or have an eating disorder, if they are addicted to anything or have always felt like they don't relate to others. We don't know what they were just diagnosed with and the effect this awful news has had on them or who they lost recently in a terrible car accident. We don't know if their parents were strict and overbearing or on drugs and died of an overdose which left them an orphan at the young age of ten years old and so living at one place after the other has left them jaded or rough because lack of a structured life has bred feelings of insecurity and rage-filled anger, not trusting people or assuming everyone they meet will hurt or put them down like what they experienced during those first several years prior to being adopted. We don't know their living situation, if they are poor and cannot afford new shoes or fashionable clothes. We don't know if they have been bullied. We don't know if they have suffered in ways we can't even imagine. who are we to think and why do we automatically assume that they are just trash or uncool when we know little to nothing about them?

How would you feel if your life came crashing down all of a sudden and you were left without relatives, a job, or a place to live? How would you feel if your house got ruined because of a fire or if upon the diagnosis of an out-of-nowhere mental illness left you with the need to take various medications that caused weight gain and due to financial circumstances you couldn't afford healthy food to help remain slim?

How would you feel if your parents said they were getting divorced and all of a sudden you lost the ability to live with both of them and so much changed or was lost in the process of their separation? How would you feel?

It's heartbreaking how selfish people are and how inconsiderate, rude, hurtful and clueless they can be. It is sad to observe cliques at school or work who not only ignore the new worker who isn't very confident but also gossip about them in cruel ways behind their back.

It is unbelievable when we can see hurting people in our churches, neighborhoods, families or often at the local grocery store or mall and yet walk by with a condescending attitude or pride in thinking we are better simply because we have a new car or purchased new clothes last week, can afford jewelry or go to restaurants often, grew up in a rich town or have always been outgoing which brought confidence and many friendships (or acquaintances) from a young age.

How shallow we have become as a society to focus so much on the outward while neglecting getting to know others for who they are and not what they have to offer or how much knowing them can benefit us.

As Christians, we have no excuse whatsoever to treat people as the world treats them. We are not to walk over people  or look down at them in order for us to get ahead. We are not to choose friendships based upon how much it can help us climb the corporate ladder. We are not to treasure the popular crowd while treating as worthless those less well-known (or seen as less than). Why don't we join together and not only keep our eyes and ears open for needs we can meet (even in small ways) but also go out of our way to ask around to see how others are in need of friendship, accountability, a listening ear, a place to stay, or financial support? Believers should be distinctly different from the world in how we live, speak, act, think, treat others (especially those less fortunate than us), what we pursue, focus on, and delight in.

What ways can you reach out to people this week to show the love and care of Jesus? Who can you call, spend time with, or write to with encouraging words and a sweet smile? Who can you help with moving (either by getting a truck for them, helping pack belongings, purchasing boxes, or lifting/carrying all the heavy stuff) to relieve the burdens they might be bearing? Who can you buy groceries for this week? What couples do you know whom you can offer to babysit for so they can go on a much needed and long awaited date night together? What ways can you volunteer in the nearby library, hospital, or after school program to bless and assist with any work or chores? Do you know any elderly people you can spend a half hour with two or three times a week after school or work and read to them or play cards or other games together (they might even enjoy just having someone to talk to, watch Jeopardy with, or take a short walk with)? Do you know any single moms you can make dinner for twice a week or buy a gift card for them each week from their preferred grocery store so they are assured having food at home?

There are so many ways we can serve others and bring joy to them in the midst of overwhelming, strenuous, or tear-filled circumstances.

As my teenage brother and I both say, "I want to be the friend I wish I had." Be that friend! Seek the Lord earnestly, beseech Him to become your top priority, humble yourself before Him, surrender all to His Lordship, treasure and apply His word to your every day life, trust in Him without reserve, love Him fervently, obey Him continually, love others for His sake, and in all you do & say, live in a manner worthy of your profession of faith and genuine commitment to Christ.  The unbelieving world is watching!


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