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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Debt Owed Everyone

Courbert Self Portrait
Growing up, who did you want to be like?  Did this person inspire you or make you feel jealous?  (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, p.246).

The persons I wanted to be like growing up usually were people I wanted to be better friends with but felt somehow I did not measure up.  When I was in elementary school, there was a guy my age named Johnny Courier.  I admired him greatly and was jealous of him.  It’s difficult to say exactly why.  Perhaps he had more social graces than me, was more popular than me; above all, I thought he was closer to the train engineer than me.  In middle school I had three or four good friends, like Steve Martin and James Bell.  We saw and treated each other as equals.  In high school I was jealous of Lynn Revel.  Again, he had social graces and a sense of wit that I did not have.  In high school I was also jealous of some girls who displayed immense social skills—Yvonne Albritton immediately comes to mind.  In college, of course, I was jealous of brilliant, straight “A” students.  I felt slighted as professors dismissed some of my contributions while favorably acknowledging theirs.  The Green twins come to mind.  But by far the man I most wanted to be like in college was my Wesleyan chaplain, Allan J. Burry.  He was young, say in this early thirties, and had everything—intelligence, wit, social skills, and an outgoing personality.  He could communicate effectively with anyone—faculty, staff, or students.  I definitely felt he was on my side and filled with immense goodwill towards me, but I was certain that he saw my limitations and hang-ups and this caused me to keep some distance.  This has typically been the case with those I most admire—assured of my inferiority, I have out of self-defense kept my distance.  Perhaps the latest person I have felt this way about was my Sunday school teacher while at Trinity United Methodist Church here in Saint Petersburg.  His name is Andy Hines, and at the time was a high official in a large corporation—at one time the CEO.  I admired him for his success, but even more so for his social skills and fantastic speaking ability.  He could humbly but effectively, seemingly “off the cuff”, engage your attention for the duration of class, frequently using the chalk board to make a point.  Now that I have grown older, I have learned an essential lesson—all humans have limitations, sometimes even highly admirable people have profound ones.  No one is an exception in this regard.  This understanding of the universality of the human condition has served to make me more compassionate and much less jealous.  In a sense, when we put people on a pedestal we are doing them a great disservice.  Out of service to our own delusions, hang-ups, feelings of inferiority, and selfishness, we sever the link of simple humanity.  My earnest desire for the rest of my life is fulfill the obligations of divine love—to give everyone simple appreciation for their talents and strengths, but also to appreciate their susceptibilities to ill health, fate, addictions, and limited experiences and understandings.

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