From my MySpace Blog originally posted Thursday 13/09/2007
O. Henry's Holiday is a Jewish tradition, enacted every year on Rosh Hashhanah, the Jewish New Year, of casting sins, misdeeds, faults, whatever you want to call them, into a body of water. The tradition is that by casting away these things you are creating a clean slate for the coming year. For Jews this is the culmination of a day of prayer and ritual. It prepares a person for the coming 10 days of self-recrimination, along with the Day of Atonement which ends the holiest time of the Jewish year.
We should be introspective in our faith and worship of God all the time but taking stock of ourselves once a year can be beneficial and ultimately very effective. But introspection shouldn’t be the only thing we practice. We should make a point of trying to be more conscious of other people as well. But we can also combine the two. I look back and wonder if I've caused anyone any harm. I also take stock of my life and its direction (or lack thereof) and try to determine if the course needs to be altered. I even chastise myself for my sins and pray to God fro forgiveness.
I have not always been as patient with people as I could have been. I shot my mouth off when I could have just as easily kept silent. I sought arguments instead of reconciliations. All in all, things I am rather upset at myself about.
I really get upset with commercial marketing for putting forth the message that we are all too ugly, fat and dirty and therefore need an expensive remedy that only they can provide. I also should have told them that I feel insulted and demoralized when I think that corporate America seems to be comfortable bathing us in global sorrow but continues at the same time to skim a healthy profit off of the whole human misery.
Sadly, I sincerely regret that I have failed to live up to the lesson of O. Henry.
O. Henry was the pen name of American writer William Sydney Porter, whose clever use of twist endings in his stories popularized the term "O. Henry Ending".
In 1906, the attendants of society published their roster of The Four Hundred Most Important People in New York. O. Henry was outraged. So much so that he wrote a story called "The Four Million." In it O. Henry made a point that I have never forgotten. He said that everyone is worth knowing. The four million that he wrote about were the four million people living in New York at the time. On the inside cover of one edition of that story has a picture of a busy street in New York in 1906, and throngs of pedestrian traffic on it. The caption reads The Four Million on Parade. It also made me think.
Perhaps the biggest transgression that I would need to cast away is that I have ignored people --- ESPECIALLY IN MY CHRISTIAN WITNESS. Of course, some people can be irritating and easy to ignore. After thirty seven years of living the list of irritating people grows longer and longer. So many people that we meet seem so irrational, immoral, so narrow-minded, that the thought of learning anything more about them than what appears on the surface makes me sweat.
This is terribly unfair but most of us would ignore these people. In fact, I know from personal experience that when someone finds someone else unpleasant or too different from themselves, they do their best TO avoid them.
But, I think that what O. Henry was getting at is that it makes very little difference, in the long run, if people are not always quite what we expect or want them to be. All people cannot be all things.
The more you think about it the more you realize that there are more similarities than differences between people. We are not all wealthy, we are not all of the same race or ethnicity, we are not all heterosexual, we are not all male. Some of us are not what the dictionary or Calvin Klein define as beautiful but the more you get to know a person the more beautiful they become.
The idea here is that we all have something to offer. We won't always agree, we won't always like one another, but everyone is worth knowing.
And that fact is telling in how we can evangelize. The Great Commission is just a start, albeit an important one. And if you think about it, everyone is not only worth knowing, but also worth keeping out of hell. The amazing juxtaposition we find ourselves in is that when we become friends with someone, we find it harder and harder to tell them about Jesus. However this should not keep us from getting to know people or sharing our faith. We can actually do both concurrently!
As you meet new people, take the chance and give them a chance. They may seem like someone you wouldn’t want around, but remember that Jesus didn’t just associate with Hs friends. He put Himself right, smack-dab in the middle of those that traditional society found unworthy and unwanted: lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors, the poor, etc. Jesus found them worth knowing and worth keeping out of hell. He merely left it to them. That is what we have to do. Provide them with loving kindness, inform them of Gods law, tell them of Gods love through Jesus sacrifice, and leave the choice with them. If they have questions, answer them, if they don’t want to talk about it, don’t force it. But know them, love them, and witness through your words and actions.
Everyone is worth knowing AND worth keeping out of hell!
Mark 5, Mark 10:46-52, Luke 17:11-19