by Terra Koch
“Be kind, everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
Has this ever been truer in our lifetime than it has been over the past year and a half? Surely if a circumstance called for a cultural shift towards compassion, consideration, and patience, 2020 and 2021 have merited a raise in these efforts. As the past few months have unfolded, shops and restaurants have been able to reopen at full- or nearly full-capacities, after a year of hard work, struggling to create new ways to keep their doors open. Some businesses even saw huge increases in customers, with a few hiccups along the way. Every business has been impacted in some way. Some thrived, some barely held on, and some closed their doors. All of them navigated what seemed like constantly changing circumstances.
It doesn’t really matter what the business is, what is sold, what service is provided, how big or small it is, how many people are employed, if they’re publicly traded or if they’re someone’s retirement hobby. They all share one thing in common: People.
People make things. People provide the service. People stand behind the counter or pull up in the service truck. When you call customer service, there’s a person on the other end of the phone. People work in accounting, drive the delivery trucks, work on the technology to make the app for your Kroger pickup, and people fill the soap dispensers in the bathrooms. It’s all people. People made by the same Creator who made you.
Beneath the Surface
People have lives beyond what we see as they scan our groceries at Walmart. They have battles they’ve been fighting for years. And, in addition to those, we’ve all faced some confusing times in more recent history. All people deserve to be treated with compassion, consideration, and patience—because we are all God’s children, broken as we may be. Every one of us needs grace from our neighbors daily. It is a celebration of the freedom we have from carrying the weight this world can put on us.
To know that God is in control, that he sees my heart—the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of it—and he loves me still. He saw me forgive someone when it was difficult, even if no one else did. We have heard the word “unprecedented” quite often, and it certainly resonates with our recent experience. But these times are not without precedent. We can look to God’s Word, the Bible, for examples of how Jesus Christ interacted with people at their work. We can’t physically heal the sick or feed the masses quite in the same way that Jesus did. Often all we can do is pray for the sick and for those in need. But we can control ourselves, and how we represent the freedom, joy, and peace we have through our faith in the Lord and our redemption through Jesus Christ.
Empathize and Engage
In Luke 5:1-11, we read about Jesus calling his first disciples to follow him. If you read through the example that Jesus sets, you see how he engages with Simon after he, his brother, and their fishing buddies have spent a long, hard night at work, unsuccessfully catching any fish. I don’t imagine the fishermen were in a chipper mood that morning. I think they were tired, frustrated, disappointed, and probably grumpy. Jesus then teaches from their empty boat to the people gathered on the shore, then he turns to Simon and asks him to lower his nets into the water. He was about to perform a miracle by filling their nets with fish.
Now, I would not suggest that you could have filled Costco’s shelves with toilet paper last year. I want to highlight that Jesus engaged with Simon in the work he was doing, in trying to make a living, and not having a very good day with it. Jesus didn’t just approach Simon and say, “Chin up. Just follow me.” He first acknowledged the fisherman’s efforts and struggles, then he did what he could about it. At first, Simon argued a little with Jesus. “Master, we’ve worked all night and haven’t caught anything” (Luke 5:5, NIV). Maybe you’ve felt that way yourself recently. Maybe the person you’re talking to in your daily routines feels the same way. Why should we treat rude people with understanding? “But because you say so . . .” Luke 5:5, NIV). Christ has set the example for us.
Simple, But Powerful Words
The Lord has called us to love our neighbors (see Matthew 22:37-40). So, that is why I try my best to greet everyone with whom I interact with a simple, “How are you today?” “I’m well, how are you?” in return. The simple words “Please,” “Thank you,” “Have a great day,” and “I appreciate that” go a long way. I’ve lost count of how many times in response to such simple courtesies I have gotten a smile and a “Thank you for asking!” It saddens me to hear that no one else has asked about how their day is going. In doing nothing more than simply being polite, or showing understanding when an issue has occurred, a few times the response was accompanied by tears and a pouring out of the struggles that person has faced at that very job, or in their personal life.
You don’t have to be able to perform miracles in order to be a light in this world. You can trust in God’s sovereignty and lean on his understanding and not your own (see Proverbs 3:5, 6). We can acknowledge people at their work. We can show patience and understanding. We can’t fix the world’s problems, but we can make one interaction with someone else a little easier, a little more pleasant. It may not improve your own experience, and no one may even take notice. All you can do is provide the opportunity. God’s in control of the rest.
“But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:5, NIV). This encounter results in Simon (later to be named Peter by Jesus), his brother, Andrew, and their friends James and John being followers of Jesus. (See Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20). I don’t expect to witness a conversion experience for someone just because I said “Please” and “Thank you.” God does the work inside the heart—others’ as well as mine. It’s about walking each step with obedience, in service to our Lord. I can demonstrate the freedom and the light of Christ that I have within me to everyone I come in contact with. Just cast your net again.
I want to leave you with the image Christ challenges all of his followers with in Matthew 5:14-16:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (NIV).
Terra Koch is a mom of four boys on a small farm. She serves on the Moms’ Group facilitator team and the women’s leadership team at Christ’s Church.