There sat the old man upon the trash can by the track, as if waiting for someone. I had just finished my run and headed towards him where I had left my things. He looked downwards as if to avoid eye contact with me, as if he felt like he was intruding in “my space” or something. I picked up my things, looked at him briefly, smiled, and breathlessly said, “Good morning…” He matched my gaze and answered with a quiet “Good morning” as well. I walked away, smiling a little more.
I need to greet others more…especially people that I don’t know….especially the “older folks”…the ones people usually avoid talking to. To have someone acknowledge your presence, for some reason, is a treat in itself. A gift…if you will. To greet someone you don’t know with something as small as a sincere “Hello” coupled with an honest, non-forced smile, matched with equally smiling eyes…that is the simple gift of acknowledgement. It is an acknowledgement of their existence, yes….but it is more than that! It is the beginning of seeing another’s worth.
Each one of us has this built-in hunger for acknowledgement. It is by design. It is to act as a reminder for us that others hunger for it as well…and that we must learn to fill that hunger in others, as an act of service, without any expectation of satisfying our own in return.
However, our world has convinced many of us to focus on satisfying our hunger for acknowledgement instead. It is our “Look at me!” culture. The “Like” culture. It is Facebook. It is the selfie. It is us…trying to convince ourselves that we have value…and validating it through the praise and glory we’ve somehow manipulated others into giving.
Showing someone that you notice them with the simple gesture of “Hello!” tells them that you value their presence…and to be valued is to have worth! How many stories have you heard where before someone commits suicide, they tell themselves that if anyone…just anyone…says “Hello” to them, then they won’t commit suicide? I have…not too long ago. Unfortunately, that person’s story tragically ended, all because no one regarded him, noticed him, or even said anything to him…on his way to the bridge where he would eventually get the attention he wanted…a little too late.
How many of us acknowledge only those we know or are familiar to us? How many of us avoid eye contact with anyone else? How many times have we averted our gaze as we walk past another, reserving our smiles, our welcoming gaze, and our friendly words only to those we know? How many of us give more regard to a screen than to the person…even our child…nearby?
Even greater, though, is this: How often do we acknowledge God? How many of us even acknowledge his existence? (Many do not. Yet, many do. ) Do we even recognize His role in our lives? Or have we forgotten Him? Has He become a stranger to us…that we “avoid eye contact” by removing the things that remind us of Him from our presence? Do we acknowledge His hand in our successes…or do we claim them as our own? To tell God “Thank you for all the things you’ve given me,” is one thing…but to recognize Him always is our challenge. And God requires us to realize where our blessings come from…and for us to give credit where credit is due. “He that cometh to God must believe that he is (acknowledge his presence, his existence), and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (recognize Him as the source of our blessings.) ” (Hebrews 11:6) To recognize God by humbly expressing so to Him so is our conscious act to place him as someone of worth, someone of value, in our lives. And He wishes that we “go and do thou likewise” with everyone else.
This time of year…as we gather together with those who know us and love us and whom we love as well…let us give the gift of acknowledgement to those outside of our sphere of influence, our sphere of relationships, our sphere of perspective. Let us notice the unnoticed in our life and express a sincere greeting, a welcoming hand, and a loving heart. Most of all, let us offer our sincere thanks, even to God, for what He has truly given to us. Let us not be strangers to Him, nor allow Him to be a stranger to us. Let us recognize Him for who He is…our Father….and make it known.
Let us remember Him, by loving others as His Son does…as our gift and way of saying, “Thanks.”