Have you seen some of my neighbors?
Worse, the word “neighbor” used in scripture includes anyone and everyone that touches your sphere of existence—neighborhood, workplace, community, grocery store—anybody you come in contact with, and maybe even some you don’t.
What if I’m standing in a check-out line behind a serial killer? Or a pedophile? I mean, we all know what these people look like. Right?
What if I go to enter a building and I’m jostled aside by a young thug in butt crack-revealing pants? Someone who roams the streets looking for an opportunity to intimidate? Looking to prove himself to his fellow butt-crackers? I mean, what if he has a gun? Or a knife?
What about the burly dude with ink covering every visible scrap of skin? Or the depraved-looking punk who’s mutilated his face and body with terrible piercings? Or the young woman dressed in skimpy clothes with a cigarette dangling from her lips and a toddler dangling from her hip?
What about the unshaven, overgrown hick in the jacked up truck, with the sleeves torn out of his tee shirt, ball cap on backward, and sucking on a beer can? The customer service rep on the phone who speaks with an accent so thick I can’t understand a word he says? The man on the street corner in a North Face jacket who holds a sign up claiming homeless and hungry?
What about the group of young people who had a few too many–drinks/tokes/pills/sniffs? You know them, they’re noisy, obnoxious, beyond rude, and use profanity like it’s on sale. Or the obese woman in the motorized scooter who will run over you if you don’t get out of her way? Or the overly loud man who always has something to say, inane as it may be? Or the jerk who cuts you off in traffic?
Am I really supposed to love all these losers?
Wow, God. I don’t see how even You could love them. Or for that matter, why you care about me.
A character I created for one of my early (unpublished) books came to mind, one I haven’t thought of in a long time. Raymond Bessemer (totally fictional name) is a bad guy, the antagonist, the one everybody loves to hate, including Raymond himself. And I made him that way.
I knew the things Raymond suffered as a child, the terrible consequences forced on him by the actions of others, and the impossible circumstances that led to impossible choices. I knew his innermost thoughts, felt his despair in the darkness, and understood his regrets and remorse. I also knew of the hope he protected from the world, that eternal spark of light that cries from the soul. You see, hope, like a weed, is impossible to completely extinguish.
I wrote Raymond into existence full of hurt, anger, and feelings of helplessness. I let him make his own choices, even when they were bad. And I still cherished him, despite all the reprehensible things he thought and said and did. I still love him. You see, he’s mine.
Writers call the characters we create “our darlings” and “our children.” Even though they represent evil, we hate when others hate them. That’s because we see past their flaws and terrible deeds, we know their innermost thoughts and dreams. In fact, I loved Raymond so much that I created another character who saw past his darkness and showed him a better way. I wrote a better future for him. All he had to do was choose it.
All he had to do was choose it. Wow.
Aren’t we all Raymonds? Just in a bigger theater? Look at me. Look at you. Look at the next person you see. There’s a soul inside each of us, a spirit that hopes and hungers for light, and waits for someone to reach out.
You don’t have to like someone to care about them. You just have to care.If Jesus could forgive his betrayers, love a thief on the cross, and give His life to save people who despised Him … why is it so difficult for us to follow his example? To at least try?