I began writing this blog post three times or more last week. I wanted to continue to write about back-to-school preparation and reflections, but my thoughts were just not light-hearted and whimsical last week. I spent most of the week trying to understand people and the confusing messages we send daily. I want so badly to understand the complexities of people so that I can do my part to enhance the villages I am blessed to serve.
I am confused by the religious faithful who boast about their missionary efforts and accomplishments in other countries yet complain about designing a system that provides the same services in their own country. It seems a little hypocritical. The decision not to serve communities closer to home in the same way also gives the appearance that they don’t want to cover local villages with their prayers and the power of the God they say they serve. In my observations last week, I thought about how anyone concerned about the success of the village can expect greatness and excellence for the entire village absent a sincere concern for the merit, gifts, talents, and potential of each individual they call “family, “brother,” citizen, or human. Saying “we are only as strong as the weakest link” and not working to develop the perceived weakest link leaves the village weak. Failure to develop the perceived weakest link by simply ignoring the weak ones also makes the village weak and denies the potential greatness of those we ignore.
Today is Sunday and many church services were held across the country. Church goers heard messages about a savior who offered himself and his resources to the weakest links in the villages. They heard how He did so without shaming them or layering on messages of guilt and inadequacy. He served without using his lineage or privilege in a prideful way. They heard how he served and delivered those in need repeatedly without regard of their perceived value to the village members or the village leadership. According to scripture, He too, was born into less than ideal circumstances and He experienced rejection most of his life. He was falsely accused of crimes he didn’t commit and surprisingly continued to have faith that his sacrifice could give new life to villages of people.
In our modern day story, there are still those who represent the targeted and misunderstood. There are also those who judge without understanding and use their platforms to heap persecution and damnation upon those who don’t come from their village. The Sunday morning sermons will charge groups of believers with the responsibility to be like the savior in their own villages and take a message of hope to barren lands. Church goers will be charged to be “a light on a hill” for many to see in the darkness of their villages. I pray that we can each expand our view of our village boundaries to enable us to be lights in villages that don’t have lights. How helpful is it to add your beam to the block already illuminated with street lights, porch lights, landscape lights, and lights with motion sensors? Why be a light in a well-lit place? Why keep your light inside your well-lit village and look from your porch with disgust and frustration at the darkness in the villages nearby. I pray that the messages of inclusion, hope, tolerance, and forgiveness practiced by the savior in the Sunday sermons will be used to open minds and hearts enabling us to hear the views, the pains, the trials, the struggles, the needs, and the successes of villagers whose environments might make us uncomfortable. The scripture says that the savior was human so I can’t imagine that He went into those villages to help folks that the community shunned without feeling discomfort or fear. I am thankful for His example of experiencing fear and/or discomfort and still going anyhow. I am thankful that the voices of many espousing the negative thoughts about those perceived as the weakest didn’t prevent him from helping the weakest members of the village.
I often hear leaders talk about the importance of the “buy in” from all of the members and how their group is like a family. I am confused by leaders who believe that having or maintaining the spirit of the “buy in” or the vision of a family atmosphere is possible without having the diversity of voices. The leader, in the selection of trusted advisors, ought to have sincere consideration of the input of folks with varied perspectives. The leaders seeking “buy in” from their teams or chasing the vision of a family atmosphere would be wise to consider many ideas before making decisions that will create the policies that will ultimately influence the degree of “buy in” and level of family dysfunction. Expecting greatness and success for the whole without concern for the station, voice, value, and hope of each member we call “family,” “brother,” citizen, or human will impact the relationships in the village and eventually the operation of the same. I think we sometimes get so caught up in our own interpretations of the rules and guidelines that we forget or reject the idea that we may not be the only right viewpoint. Sometimes we get caught up in our wishes to control villages of people without an in-depth understanding of those villages. We forget that all villages don’t function with the same resources and we deny that outcomes in our villages are often based on the availability of said resources.
This week I was concerned that people might be afraid to let their hearts hear the hearts of others because in those statements there might be some truth or some accountability or some responsibility to change the course and direction of their own normal. Perhaps hearing someone else’s testimony might have stirred up their own sorted stories. I don’t know. I’m just sharing the thoughts that went through my mind last week.
Someone recently called me “a beehive shaker.” Initially, I was surprised and didn’t know what to think about that description. I don’t know that I am always consciously deciding to shake the hives, but I do believe that challenging people to hear the hearts of others or to listen to other perspectives in an effort to evaluate the literal impact that their decisions is a good thing. I don’t mind engaging in conversations that may cause people to feel a bit agitated like the bees in the hive. Human relationships can mimic a nervous hive and an aggravated hive would be unsettling if I were standing nearby. This revelation reminded me of the time when I was pulling weeds in my yard and I felt a jolt of piercing pain. I looked down to find three bees attached to my hand. At that moment all I could do was swat at them and then apply salve and ice to my hand. Later, I gave thought to how that situation came to be. As unnerved as it made me to be the target of an angry beehive, I spent time considering that the bees didn’t get upset for no reason. I learned to take responsibility for the bee stings and for upsetting the normal of the bees. I struggle with the “beehive shaker” who does not care about their role in upsetting the normal of the bees. I don’t think they realize that their lack of demonstrated concern makes it appear that they do not care about the circle of life that relies on the contribution of the bees to maintain a productive, sustainable village. Unfortunately, we often spend too much time and energy evaluating the fault of the other party (the bees) and the trouble they cause (the stings) and we miss opportunities to share in experiences that help us demonstrate that we are able to be about the business of what we say we are about – caring about the life of the hive and the value the village received from a healthy, productive beehive.
When we miss opportunities to live out the precepts, values, and standards we believe will make the village better, we ought not be surprised when people resist or don’t seem to accept our leadership on issues important to the vitality of the village. Growth in the village can come as a result of changes in perspective and process. If we believe that God has given each person certain talents and gifts, it follows that God did not create us expecting the same contributions from each villager. The Sunday sermon suggests, however, that there remains an expectation of victory for the village even with the differences in predestined assignments, gifts, and talents. I will be super excited when all of the people who have or will call me friend expend their energy becoming champions of positive messaging about the village and those who reside within it. I dream of a day when our discussions and decisions are guided by compassion for others and a desire to uplift those who may be considered the weakest links in our villages.