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Posts Tagged ‘setting a good example’

I had just finished speaking at a meeting and was chatting with an old friend as we ate lunch. We had not seen each other for some time and were reminiscing about the years when he and his wife used to run a cafe in a very multicultural area of Sydney. I had met them in that period and was so impressed at their heart to reach out to the people who came across their path on a daily basis in that cafe. As we chatted, he told me a story from those times I had never heard before. He shared with me how one day, his wife (let’s call her Marie) was unable to come to work alongside him at the cafe as she normally did. But over time, Marie had befriended a Muslim lady (let’s call her Sara) from Somalia who, when she heard about this, offered to help them out for the day.

‘I will be Marie today!’ she declared—and she meant it.

Sara set to work and, not long after, saw an elderly lady outside the shop having difficulty walking, despite having a walking frame. Now knowing how her friend Marie, who has such a warm, caring, friendly manner, would act, she rushed out to help this older lady.

‘Are you all right? Would you like to sit down for a while? Would you like a cup of coffee? Or can I get you a taxi home?’

But the older lady, seeing her Good Samaritan was a Muslim woman, turned on her.

‘No—I don’t like Muslims!’ she replied with vigour.

Sara bit her tongue but did not retaliate. After all, she was Marie that day—she had promised to act just as Marie would. She continued graciously helping the older lady, who did at last allow herself to be helped into a taxi.

The following day, my friend who ran the cafe received a phone call.

‘Do you have a Muslim woman working in your coffee shop?’ the voice demanded.

‘Yes, I do,’ my friend replied, wondering what was to come next.

‘Well, I have something for her. I will see it gets delivered to your shop today, so if you could pass it onto her …’

The parcel duly arrived and when my friend next saw Sara, he handed it to her.

‘What is it?’ Sara asked a little fearfully.

‘I’ve no idea,’ my friend responded, ‘but you might as well open it.’

When she did, inside was a wonderful pamper pack of perfume, bath salts and skin care products, just right for her—a peace offering par excellence. And Sara accepted the gift with grace.

What a challenge this story was to me on several levels! But above all, how well it shows us that we can choose how we respond to others. We can respond with anger and defensiveness, which often worsens the situation. Or we can respond with grace and forbearance, like Sara did. As a result, barriers were broken down in an amazing way. And all because Sara chose to act as she knew her friend Marie would.

I was humbled by this story. How about you?

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Eph 4:32

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P1030810If I have ever had any doubt about the capacity of human beings to copy others, it is rapidly being dispelled by our nineteen month old grandson. It behoves all around him to watch what they do and how they speak, because, just when you least expect it, our Zain will say and do the very same thing as you—in exactly the same manner and with the very same intonation!

Several times recently while minding him, I have noticed how he copies my mannerisms—that shake of the head and slight frown as he says a very firm ‘No!’ or that lifting of both hands, palms up and open wide, as he agrees with me that his food is ‘all gone’! But all that pales into insignificance in the light of a sequence of events I observed last week when we were out together.

It happened in a small play area at a local shopping centre. A little girl was playing on the tiny slippery dip there—although I use the word ‘playing’ loosely. She was in fact sitting on the highest point of the slide, completely blocking any other child’s access, with her arm out straight and her hand very definitely commanding everyone to stop. She was also scowling ferociously, warning other children off with a very authoritative ‘Nooo!’ And if any ventured too close, she would quickly add loud crying to her repertoire! However many times this little girl’s mother told her to move, these instructions were ignored.

Zain just stood watching all this, finger in mouth. He didn’t seem too fazed—and a quiet word from Nanna turned his attention to a car he could play in nearby instead. Eventually, the little girl and her mother left—and then it was Zain’s moment. He climbed the couple of steps to the very same spot the little girl had occupied so successfully, turned to another child waiting, put out his arm in the self-same expert, policeman-like manner and said loudly ‘No!’

I was gobsmacked! The whole sequence of events he had observed took only a few moments all up—but that had obviously been long enough for him to take on board an apparently very desirable way of behaving. I had thought he was just innocently observing, when all the time, he was plotting how to use the same method this little girl had employed to his own advantage! Of course, Nanna quickly intervened and nipped these plans in the bud.

No doubt, as Zain grows up, he will copy the behaviour of many other little children and young people—and adults—over the years. No doubt he will make some wrong decisions at times in choosing people to emulate, but I pray he will always be able to hear God’s voice, calling him close and pointing him in the right direction. I pray for his parents and for good friends around him who live in a way that honours God. Above all, I pray the day will come when he chooses to follow Jesus for himself and to imitate his way of life—and that one day, he will be able to say to others, just as the Apostle Paul could:

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. 1 Cor 11:1

Now that’s the sort of imitating worth putting into practice, don’t you think?

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