Missio on Generosity: Othering

A good friend and colleague, Dr. Esther Meek, taught me the importance of asking a stranger to relate his or her story.  When Meek meets a stranger she immediately requests, “Tell me your story.” Sometimes it appears people are waiting and eager for that request to be made because the following conversation, which you think might take a few minutes, instead takes instead an hour or longer.

There is something special and human about asking someone to tell you his or her personal story.  Requesting and listening to someone’s story of heartaches, detours, victories and dreams bestows dignity on the story teller.  Listening to someone’s story communicates, “I care.” Listening to someone’s story communicates respect.

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So, imagine asking those workers who are often invisible to us to relate their stories: the blue-collar worker.  ‘Invisible to us’ because I am guessing that blue-collar worker like janitors, hotel maids, plumbers, factory workers, trash collectors, etc. don’t get asked to tell their stories very often.

A friend of mine is interviewing congregants in his church who are blue-collar workers.  Notice this heartbreaking reaction from these dear brothers and sisters.  He reports, “We are finding out that almost all of those that we’ve interviewed thus far have never been asked by their pastor about their work [stories] and haven’t been encouraged to pursue it well.” This pastor friend goes on to say, “These blue-collar workers actually broke down and cried because they are so thankful (and hurt) that someone is finally interested [in their work stories], and wants them to think through what it means to be a follower of Christ in their work.”

I am watching the ReFrame video series and one of the participants used the word “othering.” What a fitting word, because the Christian faith is chiefly about the other. Jesus’ sacrificial and atoning sacrificial death and resurrection was on behalf of the other: me, you and His bride, the church.

Paul writes the church at Philippi, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3). Consider these passages from the Apostle Paul’s magnum opus, his letter to the Romans, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10). “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8). The Apostle John weighs in here, “love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12). There many more passages where the person receiving the action is the “other” or “another.”

Whatever your role, pastor or not, are you practicing “othering” and spending “unhurried time”[1] with those who work in blue-collar jobs in and outside of your church body? Are blue-collar workers prayed for or acknowledged in the church? As a church body of many members, does your church practice “othering” and spending “unhurried time” with those who work in blue-collar jobs in and outside of your church body? As a Christian, are you practicing “othering” and spending “unhurried time” to listen to the stories of those brothers and sisters in and outside of your church body?

If you answered “No” – no worries!  Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you to make an appointment with a blue-collar worker and follow through and request this imago dei bearer, “Tell me your story.” I guarantee – it will be time well spent.

Who is invisible to me as he or she pursues his or her vocation right in front of me?

Dr. Luke Bobo has experience in the corporate, educational, and not-for-profit worlds.  He is the Director of Resource and Curriculum Development of Made To Flourish (http://www.madetoflourish.org/) in Kansas City, MO.

 

Images: FreeImages.com/ Robert Burress, Mark Preston

[1] Denis Haack, Ransom Fellowship, often uses this phrase.

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