Friday, December 2, 2011

Being "Odd" to Other People

What makes a person stand out from the crowd? Can you think of something to immediately draw attention to yourself? We may imagine our clothes, car, hair-style, perfume, a loud laugh, a heckling sales-pitch like at the circus, or a disgusting body-odor. In what ways would you like to be set apart from other people, and noticed faster?

In many of the business & volunteer efforts of which I am a part, Name-Tags are part of the custom. It is one way in which to introduce ourselves without speaking our name over & over again. At conventions, classes, or seminars, we write our names on an adhesive tag and attach it to our clothing. We are then ‘prepared’ to meet new people. On more than one occasion I have forgotten to remove the tag, with surprising results! I would go out for lunch, or shopping on my way home, and the attendants would often use my name in a with a smile, as if there was a simple mistake to my attire, yet being more polite than normal.

It was then that I heard of man who wears a personal name-tag anywhere he goes because he liked to be known by people. So for a few years I conducted a social experiment of my own: would people unknown to me be “nicer” because they knew my name? After any event or occasion I would attend, I would purposely leave my name-tag in place, fasted to my shirt, sweater, or jacket, and you know what happened? Almost everyone was more pleasant to deal with! When I stopped to think on this, my theory seemed sound - people are nicer to one another when we become familiar to them. However one thing was overlooked: could I be acting nicer to others when my name-tag was fastened in place because they would know who I am? I certainly don’t like it when my name is associated with bad behavior, or rude manners. And of course, I feel more vulnerable to prying eyes who are constantly seeking an edge over another person, but what did I have to lose? I mean, do I trust God to protect me, or what?!?

For a few more years I took the topic as a research project, sharing my thesis with anyone who would listen: we are often nicer to other people when they may know us by name, and other people are nicer to us when they know who we are. On a few occasions I would have some more fun, drawing a smiley face on my name tag, or even applying it upside down, kind-of forcing the issue of an introduction if my name was sought. It became a good, fun, joke, to figure out new ways to make an introduction. The next thing I realized was that people often looked at me with suspicion. “Why is he doing this abnormal thing?”

This post is fun for me to write, but there is a bigger question here: what if the tags we wear told people more about us than just our name? Such as: Sinner, Criminal, Adulterer, Bankrupt, Jobless; or even the feelings we felt most: Depressed, Unloveable, Angry, Alone, Broken.

If you saw someone wearing those tags, how would you treat them?? Will you be nicer? Or avoid them? If someones name-tag is upside down, will you correct them? Or accept simply them?? And here is the reason I write this:

Have you decided in advance who you will love and be nice to?

And have you decided who you will reject and avoid?

Why?

When someone stands out in the crowd,

will we turn to them with the same mercy & grace Christ has shown us?

 

“Wouldn’t you like to be known as a person of extraordinary love? When people speak of you, will they say: “He doesn’t care who you are or what you look like,” or “She doesn’t care where you’ve been or what you’ve done.” The people who practice love most are the ones who are good at it, and their relationships with other people are the result.”  (paraphrase of writing by Rick Warren)

 

The guy with long-hair can be seen as a slacker by some people, but can you see him differently? What if you complimented him on the time and dedication it must have taken to grow out his hair! What if you connected, and together something new was formed? A friendship.

The odd person in the crowd may end-up on television as a “personality”, a figure different from everyone else. He may feel left-out much of the time, just like a widow, or a divorced mother of three, or the newly released prisoner. But different isn’t always bad. Jesus was different, and He frightened those who couldn’t understand His message of love.

Are you willing to stand out and strik up a conversation with a stranger?  Sharing Christ and being odd?? I think I WANT to be odd in that way!

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