Part of the area of growth for me as I have been an intern for the POLIS Institute this semester has been in my appreciation for the blessings in my life. I think I do a decent job of thanking God for what I have in my life and that I value the opportunities that I have. However, there are times when I learn a new lesson and sometimes, those lessons are painful.
A few weeks ago, I needed to get some work done on my car. Now, my Mother was going to pick me up after I dropped the car off early that particular morning once my kids were at school. However, my Mother called and said she forgot about a doctor’s appointment she had to take my Dad to. So, I said, “not a problem at all”. It was a beautiful morning and my house was only about three miles away and so I just decided to walk home. I knew that my car was going to be at the mechanic’s garage all day and I would just have my oldest son drive me there in the afternoon once he was home from school.
I was about half way home when I realized that my loafers that I had just slipped on before leaving the house earlier in the morning were not the best walking shoes. Before long, I noticed my heels were starting to hurt. And with about a mile to go, I finally realized that my heels were really sore. I stopped and took my shoes off only to be shocked to see that both of my heels were bleeding. I had rubbed the skin raw off of my heels not realizing that the pain I was feeling was there for a reason and that I should have taken a look at my feet a lot sooner than I did!
As I continued my journey, I pushed down the back of the shoes so that my heels would not touch them and started walking on my shoes like “make-shift flip flops”. I finally made it home and immediately went into my bathroom and dressed my wounds and then got a large glass of water and relaxed in my recliner and turned on mindless television. As I sat there for a while, with my heels still hurting, I thought about the homeless guys that I had seen many time around the area of Orlando where the POLIS Institute office is located. I wondered how many of those guys had rubbed there feet raw from bad shoes as they were out walking all day and all week. I wondered, “Where do they get their medicine and Band-Aid’s for their feet… for their heels?” As I thought about this situation, I started to get just a brief glimpse of what these guys must go through every day. As my heels were hurting, at least I had different shoes to put on and I had medicine on my wounds as well as a nice comfortable recliner and air conditioning around me.
As I continued to serve in my internship and my pastoral ministry, I pray that God will continue to open my eyes and aching feet to the needs of others. May the heels on my feet always be a reminder, of what it says in Matthew 25:35-40, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
During the past few months, I have been doing some ministry with The POLIS Institute in Orlando, Florida, Over my time in ministry with this organization that helps bring dignity and share the love of Christ to so many throughout the Orlando area, I am amazed at how much I took for granted as a white male in this country. I have known for some time that I am automatically elevated to a higher status in the United States because of my race. Even without trying or wanting to be elevated in any way by how I am perceived or viewed by someone else, I am.
The POLIS Institute works at building the fundamental worth of a human being and points out and empowers others to reverse the indignities that they face within their communities. As a person who has always thought of himself as very open minded and not racist at all, I was reminded the other day that I am just as guilty as the next person.
I was walking in downtown Sanford the other day and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a young African-American man with his pants saggy far below his rear end. Immediately, I was stereotyping this young man for what I perceived was his personality and that he was just some young guy up to no good. Then the next moment, I caught sight of two little boys around three years old running toward this young many giggling and laughing as they were playing. I realized that this young man was their father and he was out walking them toward a nearby playground area.
As I saw this interaction between the young man and his sons, I started to smile. The young man and I looked at each other and he smiled back at me with a pride that every Dad knows. As I kept walking by them, I felt ashamed that I also was guilty of stereotyping people. I never looked at myself as the kind of person who did this toward others, but in that instance walking downtown, I did. And then, as I realized what I had done, I heard a little voice in my mind remind me that this young man was a Dad just like me. A man who loved his kids and wanted the best in life for them too. As I walked away, I was reminded that Jesus Christ died for all of us and that this young man and his sons were my brothers in Christ too.
All of us have a long way to go in our understanding of one another. As I have been learning at The POLIS Institute, we should all be in a higher form of building relationships. As a follower of Jesus, it is being reminded that I am absolutely no better than anyone else, even if my pants are held above my hip and not sagging far below. Every person deserves self-worth, dignity and have the feeling that they can provide for themselves and their family. Everyone deserves to feel like they can amount to something. The other day was a much needed reminder for me, and one I think for all of us, that we all need to have empathy toward others around us. We each need to put ourselves in their shoes… or even into wearing their saggy pants.
Come worship with us any Sunday at 10:00, to feel the welcome and warmth of a community of faith who are on a journey seeking to grow deeper in their love for God through Jesus Christ and for one another.