Not long ago I heard the story of what happened to a self-defense instructor and it drove home the reality of why we need to understand the power of our point of view. The woman had moved from a big city into a small rural community. On a hot august evening she was jogging down the street in this unfamiliar town and mentally making note of her surroundings. Her training was in high gear as she considered where an assailant might come from and how she could use any of the homes on the street as a safe haven if need be.
To her amazement, and concern, many of the first story windows were open in the summer heat. There was even one bedroom with a sliding glass door partly open and it only had a curtain in place to block the view of those passing by. The woman decided this might be a good opportunity to introduce herself as a new neighbor and mention how dangerous it was to leave things so unguarded. Thus, she approached the open door and to her shock heard the following conversation between a father and his preteen daughter.
“I don’t like it when you do that daddy. If mommy were here she would make you stop hurting me.” To this the father replied, “Until mommy gets back it’s just you and me so you might as well get used to it. When we are done you can leave my bedroom and go back to your own. Like it or not we are going to do this every night till mommy returns. I’ll try to be gentler from now on”.
The women outside the door was sickened by what she heard and immediately went into defensive mode. She was emotionally pulled back into her childhood and the sexual abuse she had suffered at the hands of her father. After her mother died the father pulled her into his bedroom one night and “comforted” himself. Because she felt sorry for the loss he had suffered she never reported it to the police and it continued until she left home four years later just after her 17th birthday. She vowed this would never happen to another young girl and it propelled her into a career of teaching young women how to protect themselves from sexual predators.
With this blazing in her mind, the woman dialed 911 and reported the crime then quietly pushed aside the curtain and sprang through the open door. She fired a blast of her personal pepper spray which hit the father squarely in the face as he turned to see who had charged into his bedroom. The woman then pulled the little girl off the bed and into the safety of her protective arms. At that moment the police arrive and the woman proudly handed over the terrified eleven year old to the officer who was first on the scene.
Sounds like such a heroic act doesn’t it? You can imagine the headlines in the news the next day: “New Neighbor Apprehends Father Who Is A Sexual Predator”. However, that is not what happened. What the woman didn’t know is that the man was only combing his daughters hair. She had just taken her nightly bath and since mommy was visiting family in another state, daddy was left to brush out the girl’s thick brown locks that were tangled. He was a loving father simply doing his best to groom his daughter and they both knew he was not nearly as good as his wife at the task. However, their honest words overheard by someone with a very different mind set were interpreted with a much darker perspective.
News commentator Paul Harvey became famous because he knew that people want to hear “the rest of the story”. I spent my childhood and many of my adult years enjoying his wonderful commentary on life. By giving the news behind the news, Paul was able to pull out the truth of our humanity in ways that were honest and genuinely uplifting. He realized people automatically believe a certain way the moment they hear things, and for the most, part they never give it a second thought. When he took the time to dig a little deeper, he uncovered what was behind the story and that context made it so much more than what it seemed to initially be.
How are you when it comes to finding the hidden treasure in people, events and places? Do you look at the surface, make a snap decision and then move on your way, falsely confident that there is nothing of importance you could have possibly overlooked? I have been that way at times and this past August when my youngest son Matthew came with his family to visit for 10 days I learned a valuable lesson about the powerful concept of looking for hidden treasure.
My yard is not very big but it, and our house are in the oldest section of Johnstown. In fact our deed says the house was built in 1844 and after that the original property of several acres was divided up and sold off by 1870. With that information in hand Matthew brought his metal detector with him and we began to scan my yard. Sure enough, when we turned the thing on it went off almost immediately. It began telling us what metal was present and how deep it was under the surface. Over the course of about an hour he ended up with a pocket bulging full of old sliver coins. I have lived in this house over 10 years, mowed the lawn and stepped on every inch of it but I never knew this treasure was there, just below the surface.
Our construct of life, our preconceived ideas, and our life experience all build a framework through which we view the world, and those in it. This puts everything and everybody into nice little preformed compartments that allows our world to make sense. The problem with this built in filter is that it presupposes things that are quite often completely false. The one who is covered with tattoos, the one who has earlobe loops, the one who is overweight or poorly dressed all have their own story. They are people made in God’s image who have value and deserve to be listened to.
What we see on the outside is only part of anyone’s story. When we fail to wait and dig a little deeper, to get below the surface, we miss some amazing treasures that are longing to be uncovered. Let me encourage you today to get out of your conformity zone. Take the time to look past the outside and listen to the heart of those around you. Turn on you emotional and spiritual metal detectors and see if you can uncover the hidden treasure of who someone really is. Take a moment in this busy life to fill your pockets with the silver of who someone is and how they got here. You will both be richer for it if you do!
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