Our tenet this month, “We are each unique and innately worthy of respect,” is an easy concept to accept, but can sometimes be difficult to apply to each and every person we know and encounter. However, if you wanted to conduct an experiment on finding and valuing this innate worth of each person on the earth, I can’t think of a better method than leaving home and family to love and mentor a widely diverse group of young adults, mostly students.
Our friends, Mark and Kathy Stimpson, are doing just that with great love and care. They have been serving a mission for their church in England for five of the eighteen months for which they signed up, learning to drive on the left side of the road, and feeding the bodies and souls of these budding adults who hail from all corners of the world. Some meetings and meals are held at buildings designed for such gatherings, but many are tightly sandwiched into their small flat until it nearly bursts at the seams. Conversely, they enjoy other get-togethers when attendance is sparse so they can get better acquainted with two or three students at a time.
You may recognize Kathy as one of our previous editors and writers at Big Ocean Women, a self-proclaimed introvert with an aversion to cooking for crowds and socializing, especially with those she doesn’t know well. However, she’s willing to pay the price to know and love these young people. She and Mark not only plan, shop, prepare, and often transport two or more meals each week for this group they shepherd, they provide rides, recreation, listening ears, and open hearts to encourage their growth and earn their trust. Kathy even courageously plays the piano, sometimes without prior notice, for meetings.
Highlighting their diversity, Kathy noted at one gathering at their flat, the attendees represented Ghana, England, Zambia, Mexico, Reunion Island (near Madagascar), and the United States – adding how much fun it was to hear their discussions. It seems obvious to me that they value the uniqueness of each individual while warmly assuring them that each is an irreplaceable piece of the group as a whole.
I asked Kathy how this month’s tenet applies to their work. Her response:
Regarding the tenet, I have discovered (again) that just getting to know each person even a little bit helps you see the good in them and appreciate their particular personality. We have the guy who knows seemingly everything — somewhat reticent socially, but so delightful when you let him be who he is and really listen to him. The young woman who was put into foster care at age 14 because of her abusive mother, who now helps at-risk youth in schools. The quiet guy who pretty much only speaks up in a very small group, but is really intelligent and works hard in his university program. Another guy who changed his major from one with lucrative job prospects to being a maths (as it’s called here) teacher because he felt like he wanted to help people. A young single father-of-three who comes every week to enjoy the company of those who believe like he does. I see several people each week who don’t necessarily have a particular friend to hang with but come to be with others in a safe environment and to talk and listen and enjoy. In other words, the tenet becomes a no-brainer if you give people a chance to know them at all.
These methods can be applied to every person we encounter. First, we start with the assumption that each is valuable, a brother or sister in our world family. Because we start with that premise, there will be no thought of dismissing, judging, or demeaning anyone because of the singular role they play. Next, we peel off the outward layers and listen to learn who they are, what they love, and what they dream of becoming.
On social media, Mark shed some light, literally, on how we come to see their distinctive gifts and respect their innate worth: Took a walk today “sun chasing” – my favorite English winter hobby. Got me thinking how sunlight impacts how we see things, just as the Light of Christ impacts how we see people. Sunlight brings out beauties we miss without it; the Light of Christ illuminates the beauty of those whose path He has us cross.
As Kathy suggests, we begin with listening to learn about others, then Mark observes we see them more clearly through God’s light. We get to know them as they feel safe enough to let us see exactly how unique and valuable they are. The grand truth is that this familiar adage applies to every single person: to know them is to love them.
We don’t have to go halfway around the world to listen, learn, seek light, and love. Some of those who most need and deserve our love are those in our immediate families, our workplaces, and our neighborhoods. They are worth and worthy of our time, attention, and respect, and we can rely on the Light of Christ to show us their unique beauty. Who is waiting for you to discover their talents and possibilities by following the advice and example of this loving couple?
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