Sometimes you never know the impact you have on someone. Other times, they’re brave enough to tell you.
This story came to mind again recently, and I thought I would share it. Many years ago, when I was starting high school, my friend’s younger brother was pretty obnoxious. Let’s be honest: a lot of boys are, as they enter their teens. He was loud, rowdy, and his sense of humor didn’t mesh well with the general public. Endless energy wrapped up in oversized t-shirts and braces. Pretty typical.
One day, I decided that I was going to be nice to him. It was just a challenge for myself, honestly. It was self-righteous. I did think everyone deserved the benefit of the doubt, but I was focused on being a “nice person”. A “good Christian”. I didn’t set any high expectations, just to say hello, and smile. Not to roll my eyes when he acted up. Actually listen when he talked.
After a few months, I began to find myself enjoying the time I spent with him. We had real conversations, and I began thinking of him as the little brother I never had.
Still obnoxious, but in a familiar, special way.
One day, out of the blue, he asked me: “Why do you talk to me?” It caught me completely off guard. I never considered talking to him to be something unusual. When I asked him what he meant, he explained.
“The rest of [my sister]’s friends just ignore me or make fun of me.”
Yes, I’d initially decided to be nice to him for my sake, not his. But the friendship had eclipsed that decision long ago. I now talked to him because I enjoyed it! I asked how he was doing and I really listened. I cared when he told me who he liked, his plans for the weekend, or what he wanted to do in life.
I hadn’t realized that reaching out to him would affect him in a way he would recognize. I hadn’t thought that God would use my self-righteously-motivated action for real life change. I didn’t think I had anything to offer. Just a hello.
Sometimes, that’s all it takes.
How often are we annoyed by people who aren’t exactly “our type”? We ignore them, and choose to see only what we want to. No gifts, just gripes. We refuse to look deep enough to see the beauty with which God has steeped their soul.
If I asked for a show of hands of people guilty of this, I’d have to raise mine too. I have shut people out of my life, and swept past some that needed my love, compassion, or friendship. I regret each and every one of those times. I will never know the effect I could have had on their lives, or what their friendship could have taught me.
Today, I want to challenge all of us to take off our blinders and find out who needs us to reach out to them. To see them. To simply say hello.