Visitors to Singapore often assume that everyone that lives there is a conformist. Visitors to New York often assume that everyone that lives there is purely focused on winning, power, and success. In the first, rules triumph. In the second, money and status are the measures of winning. Ironically, for many I have met in both cities, the assumptions of the norm are simply not true! People in every community are unique. Individuals may share values, needs, and desires, but the way that they express them is often quite distinct.
It is easy to simply assume one knows why certain actions are being taken. One sees something and “knows” why. It takes someone with inside knowledge to challenge our conclusions. It can be hard to reconsider. Yet, when someone tells me “these people aren't [as] drunk as some of you suspect. They haven't had time to get drunk-it's only nine o'clock in the morning.” (Acts 2.16-) I would do well to reconsider.
There is a different way at looking at any situation. I can focus in and on the goodness of others first. This does not mean that I act naively. Rather, I look for, call for, and respond to the best others offer. I use her or his goodness in the greater calling we all have to serve each other. I act in awareness of their weaknesses, failings, and history with a sense of compassionate empathy. We travel wearing tattered clothes. We walk with frailties and handicaps. We struggle to reach for our hearts best desires. I am just as infected as you are by disease. They may come with different labels – selfishness, pride, and arrogance – but the result is still the same. We are all imperfect.
I find myself reaching for a different approach with today's dawn. I will abandon my crutch of assuming. I will walk away from the safety of certainty and knowing. I will step into the unknown of a community made up of God's children. My only assumption will be that anyone is a child of God.
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