I imagine most of us have jumped to conclusions about another person at some point in our lives. We think we know the people we see, meet, and watch based on our personal experience of that type of person, someone who looked like the person in our past, family connections, or their associations. All of us are more complicated than we appear on the surface. The facts about us or the image that we project does not necessarily tell the whole story. In fact, the image projected may be completely different than who we actually are. I learned this lesson recently.
My family and I went to a National baseball game. The only sport I follow is bull riding, so I knew only the basics of the game. My knowledge of baseball players is from movies and the players who make the headlines. So, with visions of Bull Durham dancing in my mind, we went to the ball game. There was a stop at the team store. My daughter wanted a t-shirt, which was fine. However, she said that it had to be a t-shirt with a particular player’s number and name on the shirt. There were other shirts that were 1/2 the cost of this particular player. The player she wanted was expensive.
I questioned her about why she had to have his name and number. I have never seen her watch a baseball game. I had never heard of the player. What could possibly be so special about this particular player? She insisted that she knew the player. Her grandmother bought the t-shirt. I was still left wondering. After all, he was just some baseball player. I had never heard of him. What difference did he make in the world? As we sat in the stadium watching the game, we saw the player. He is the third baseman. Well, I still did not know what difference he made in the grand scheme of things, but we watched the game.
The next day, I googled the player, Ryan Zimmerman. It turns out that he played college baseball here in our community at the University of Virginia. He is a local sports hero, but I had not been paying attention to local sports. Also, he played high school baseball in my hometown of Virginia Beach. He was a hometown sports hero, but I had moved away before he was playing baseball. Then, I found out that he cares. He cares enough to have a foundation which raises money for MS. He has taken on many family responsibilities because of his mother’s MS. He has it built into his contract that he can use the stadium one day a year for a MS event.
The shirt’s cost was suddenly not such a burden. The baseball player was a local sports hero and someone who cared about others. The people we encounter in our daily lives have stories as well. They may not be in the major leagues, but they may have great compassion for others. They may not be from our hometown, but they may have family situations which have changed their lives. We cannot know who a person is from just a glimpse or basing it on our past experiences. We are called to get to know others, to realize that each of us is uniquely and wonderfully made. We are called to go beyond the surface. I learned about one. Who is God calling you to learn about today?