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Trail Notes

Do You See People?

by Jim Johnson

If you saw it you haven’t forgotten it. I’m talking about M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense. It is the story of a young boy, played by Haley Joel Osment, who has a really creepy sixth sense—he sees dead people. I won’t take this any further because I don’t want to spoil the movie for those of you who might still see it, or drag up old nightmares that took you several weeks to put to bed after having seen it. It does raise a question, though, that I would like to ask—Do you see live people?

“Of course I do,” is our immediate response to that question. But, a short time ago I had an experience that made me doubt my ability to see “live” people. We were driving home late from Waco one evening after seeing one of Tyler’s plays at Baylor. I was running low on gas and needed to pick up a Mountain Dew to keep me awake for the rest of the drive. As I was walking into the convenience store I vaguely perceived the figure of a homeless person sitting on the sidewalk, leaning up against the brick wall. Upon entering the store I noticed that there was only one other customer inside—an Arabic looking man in his mid thirties.

With 9/11 still engrained in my mind, thoughts about who this man might be and what he was doing here flooded into my consciousness. You know how your mind works when you are on a lonely stretch of highway late at night and your imagination is in dire need of a jolt of caffeine. In the short time I stood behind him in the checkout line, I was able to concoct in my mind the scenario for the next terror strike and how this guy was surely the ring leader. The sales clerk’s, “Did you find everything you need?” brought me back to reality and I quickly paid my tab and headed back to the car. While I was buckling up, some movement on the sidewalk caught me eye and that’s when it dawned on me—I really don’t see live people.

This man, that in my mind had become a minion of Osama bin Laden, was kneeling beside the homeless man giving him a cup of hot coffee and a snack. I sat there in stunned shame as I watched him then get into his car and drive off. In that moment I was brought into the full light of my own blindness. I barely noticed the homeless man as I made my way into that convenience store. I certainly did not see his face, perceive his need, or begin to imagine the hurt and loss with which he must live every day. Here he was, a living, breathing human being created in the image of God, and I didn’t begin to see him. And then, there is the Arabic man in his mid-thirties. I thought I saw him, you betcha, in my mind he was a key operative for al-Queda. But, in reality, he was way more like Jesus than me.

Let me ask you again—“Do you see live people?” How many people do you walk by, talk to, or do business with everyday that you never really see? Like me, how many people have you pre-judged and placed neatly into a box where you will always keep them no matter how they might change or grow. As we live our lives this week, let us ask God to give us “eyes to see” so that we can begin to love and serve people just like Jesus.

On the lookout!

Jim