I don’t have to tell you that our nation and our world is in turmoil. Terrorism, racial, religious, and political unrest is sprawling across our land.
A nation that once stood for justice, equality, and the pursuit of happiness for every man and woman seems divided. There are times it feels we have stepped backward in time forgetting the lives and work sacrificed for the freedom we experience today. We are not only afraid of the stranger, but we have also become afraid of one another.
But I want to encourage you today. Tension and conflict is an opportunity for change! And you play a vital role in that change. If you don’t know what to do, keep reading.
WHO IS THE STRANGER?
In a 1997 interview by the Academy of Achievement, Maya Angelou said, “It is very hard to hate someone if you look them in the eye and recognize them as a human being.” If you take the time to look at people through the eyes of God you will see that the stranger is similar to you in many ways. Regardless of race, religion, or political view, they desire security, purpose, and meaning, the opportunity to be heard, and to have a witness to their soul. They are a human being. Every human being wants to be accepted and loved, no matter how they look or act.
WORDS VS. ACTIONS
I have recently seen several posts on social media criticizing online dialogue as being useless.
One person commented on a post, “I am tired of reading moral platitudes. We need action.”
Another person wrote: “You can’t change people’s minds by posting nice quotes on the internet.”
I agree and I disagree with these statements. I agree that we need action but I disagree that posting morally sound platitudes on social media had no effect on people’s lives.
As in most cases, it is not either/or. It is an and/both solution.
Words have power. Proverbs 18:21 NLT says: “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV adds this: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
Words of encouragement bring hope. Hope is a psychological necessity if man is to envision the future at all.
My advice: Don’t grow weary of posting positive and encouraging platitudes, they may turn a frown into a smile and bring back hope to someone’s life.
Speaking of frowns turned into smiles…
A smile can be the first step to breaking down barriers with people you don’t know.
Today, I made new friends at the gym – Theresa & Sam.
Theresa’s sassy hair cut with pink highlights caught my eye and as I walked by the two women chatting a smile came over my face.
She said: That’s what I wanted.
Of course, that comment got my attention so I turned around to inquire.
“A smile?” I asked.
“Yes.” She said.
As the conversation progressed, I learned that Theresa had a theory. If negativity, fear, and hate could spread as fast as cancer, why couldn’t a smile, hope, laughter, fun, and friendship? She believed in it so much, she even dyed her hair to attract people’s attention so she could smile at them. Theresa and Sam are on a mission, spreading joy – one smile at a time!
Brandon Stanton breaks down barriers by interviewing strangers while taking their portrait. Brandon says, “I take their portraits as they tell me about their struggles and insecurities, their highs and lows.” 2 He has met over 5000 people and shared their stories on his Facebook Page – Humans of New York which has over 13 million followers. Brandon is an example of someone who listens and sees. When we stop to do this, no one remains a stranger.
Ask yourself, “How can I be a barrier breaker in my daily comings and goings with the gifts, talents, and resources that God has given me?”
Still need ideas?
- Watch your words. My mother always said: If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all. WATCH what you share in person and on social media. (REMINDER: Your kids are watching and learning how to treat others by your words and actions.) Honor your opinion by respecting others.
- Love your neighbor. Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.” This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: “Love others as well as you love yourself’” (Matthew 22:38-39 MSG). What does it mean to you to love others as well as you love yourself? Really think about that. If you like mustard and you hate ketchup, you don’t want someone to put ketchup on your burger because they love ketchup and hate mustard. You want them to accept that you are different than them and honor it. God calls us to love at a standard that requires His help. He asks us to love when people feel unlovable. This is how change occurs.
- Be a Good Samaritan. Our family is fostering two puppies for a friend who has cancer. I had to take one to the vet this week. The vet said to me: You are a Good Samaritan. I told the vet: No, I am a good friend. Good Samaritans are people that extend a helping hand to a stranger.
- Recognize the good in the world. Say “thank you”. Be grateful.
- Invite someone who is different from you to share your table. A neighbor, a co-worker, someone from your church. Listen and grow from hearing about their life. Jesus did, why not you?
Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.