Henry and I spent a fun hour at the park this afternoon. He generally refers to parks by one outstanding feature--either the color of the slides (green park, yellow park), the ground cover (rock park), or something unusual (caterpillar park--Brendan's Playground in O'Fallon, MO).

I'm not big on bird watching, but I do like to watch people. We saw a surprising variety on this crisp fall day. There was...

  • The young couple posing for engagement photos.
  • The other young couple alternating between playing with their son and showing their affection publicly (in a cute, not gross, way).
  • The four siblings (aged between 7 and 12 or so) playing together. I was not surprised to learn that they were homeschooled, especially since their names were Faith, Hope, Grace, and Benjamin.
  • The mom and son, a bit older than Henry. He had a hearing aid in one ear and a trach tube. It looked like he'd been through a lot in his short life, but he was happy and active.

I believe that Jesus was really a human like us, but he did have an advantage when it came to getting to know people. Since "He knew all men" and "knew what was in man" (John 2:24-25), he didn't have to spend time asking questions. In order for us to serve another person most effectively, we need to take time to understand where she is, where she is coming from, and where she wants to go.

Not the park we went to, by the way. Photo by  Matteo Paganelli.

Not the park we went to, by the way. Photo by Matteo Paganelli.

I've been following Eric Wallace with Uniting Church and Home for many years. He argues that building real relationships with our neighbors and community should be a primary focus of churches. He has a great blog post about asking the simple question, "How can we pray for you?" That is a question I have used to open dialogue with people. (He has another great post about being willing to let others take advantage of us.)

People around us don't need us to barge in and try to fix their problems. Some problems, like a child's chronic illness, can't be fixed with a snap of the fingers. A lot of really awful things aren't even "fixed" with prayer. We should be willing to connect with people where they are and enter into their suffering with them. Each of us is on a journey through life. Having caring companions makes the trip a bit easier.

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