A hospital emergency waiting room is a great place to watch people – assuming the reason you are there is not too consuming of course! In an emergency waiting room you can observe a cross section of the community from the comfort of hard plastic chair! I was sitting people watching in a waiting room recently. Just to be clear, I hadn’t gone there for that purpose – I was actually waiting to be let through the doors to be with a patient. But as I waited I watched.
Now I like to think of myself as an accepting and embracing person but that day I noticed how quickly I was making assumptions about what people were like based on how they looked from the outside.
There was a young man who looked like he been injured at work with his wife and three young children. They were a quiet little group; the kids were well behaved and the man and woman spoke gently to each other. What a lovely family, I thought to myself – and maybe there were but how could I know that really? Were the kids well behaved or fearfully compliant? Was the woman there with three kids in tow because she was concerned or because it was expected?
Not far from the family sat a man with a badly damaged hand. How he looked on the outside had me making up a story in my head which featured him as a gang member; a hard drinking, rough speaking, physically tough kind of guy. At one stage, a security guard came into the emergency room and this man I was watching jumped up out of his seat and belted out of the waiting room in such a hurry it made me think he had something to hide! A tough character I thought to myself, probably a bad egg! Maybe he was, but how could I possibly know that really?
As I sat there that day I started to feel less sure about my ability to be accepting and embracing of people. There I was, essentially cataloguing in my head what people were like based on how they looked, and as an extension of that I was determining something about their worth. I remembered Jesus words. He said, “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.” (John 7:24)
Do you find yourself doing this - judging and assessing people by mere appearances? Is there someone in your life you need to get to know beneath the surface?
Lead Pastor - Lesmurdie Baptist Church