When I was growing up we didn’t have much. We had a place to live and food, but not much more. My dad, as I mentioned before, had suffered two heart attacks before I was just barely five and was not able to work. Really, it was a miracle that he lived at all.
My mom, however, had much pride and taught us to have pride in many things as well. I didn’t even realize this until last Sunday, when our priest hit on this subject as part of his homily. All of a sudden, I realized I had made a grievous error. My whole life I have been looking down on people who were less educated, not well dressed, spoke incorrect English, or many other reasons.
What was I doing?! I was judging. I was like that Pharisee that thanked God that he was not like that disgusting tax collector! Really? That’s how I act as a Christian? Am I really able to call myself a follower of Christ if this is how I feel and act? Have I taught my children this way too?
So, now I must closely examine my life and know deep in my heart that I am no better than any of my fellow people. Sure, I may have more education under my belt, or a knack for correct English, and for pulling together an outfit that looks fabulous, but doesn’t cost much (or even anything with free clothing places for us needy) but how, exactly, does that make me a better person? That’s just it – IT DOESN’T!!! I feel it makes me a worse Christian. I believe it was St. John XXIII who used to sign off on his prayers to God as “the lowliest servant of the lowliest servant of God.” Yeah. He wasn’t judging himself to be more worthy of God than others were. I want that humility. Because really, does my knowing the difference between a violin and a viola make me a better Christian? No. No it does not. It just makes me knowledgeable in stringed instruments. Nothing more.
If we don’t realize how we treat other people (and I mean ALL other people!) then how are we better than that Pharisee? How are we all children of God if some of us are more equal than others? We’re not, or at least we’re not acting as if we were.
So, look at yourself. Really examine how you view others that you come into contact with during your day. I know this will be much less during the pandemic, but think back to before then, if you need to. Did you sneer at the fast food worker who got your order wrong? Consider that she might be going to school full-time as well as working full-time and trying to care for her toddler. She’s tired – that’s why she messed up your order. And really, did it kill you to wait an extra five minutes while she fixed it, after apologizing? It’s a lesson in patience – offer it up for someone who needs extra prayers!
Did you yell at the teacher who kept your kid after school in detention, because he was tired of the attitude your child was sporting? Maybe you need to look into your child’s behavior and try to get to the bottom of why the teacher felt threatened by it. Maybe there was a good reason.
Did you sigh impatiently while waiting in line because the person in front of you had 75 items and you only had two, and he didn’t let you go first? Maybe he’s trying to get home to his overworked and overstressed wife and he’s picking up groceries so that she doesn’t have one more thing on her plate. Taking the extra five minutes to let you go first just doesn’t seem like a good decision.
Maybe someone was just being a jerk. Maybe so. It happens. However, giving people (all people) the benefit of the doubt when you don’t even know them will make you a nicer person and a better Christian, not to mention it will increase your calm. Now go do good!!!