Taking notice of what others ignore

Saturday, April 21, 2007

A couple of weeks ago, my daughters introduced my wife and me to a new game. It's very simple. You play the game only in your car and only when the car is moving. The objective is to spot a yellow car or truck and then shout "Yogurt!" when that vehicle comes into your field of vision. We actually keep score. My daughters are way ahead of my wife and me; it's humbling to accept just how much quicker their reaction time is.

When I was their age, our parents introduced my siblings and me to the same game, only with license plates instead of vehicle color. "West Virginia!" "New York!" "Ohio!"

As we play this "Yogurt" game with our kids, it takes me aback to realize just how many yellow cars are on the road. I hadn't noticed before.

A co-worker and I took a weekend trip to Toronto about 20 years ago. We decided to go to church and stayed after worship for refreshments in the church parlor. Not a soul spoke to us or, it seemed, even looked in our direction. It was as if we were invisible. We were both outgoing sorts so we did try to engage someone in conversation. The response, while polite, was cursory; the person in question quickly turned her back to us to resume talking with others. We were unnoticed that day and we didn't like it.

Nobody does.

Jesus once spotted a Samaritan woman going out to draw water at midday. In the heat of Palestine, women in antiquity avoided midday water runs, preferring to obtain water early in the morning or at dusk. The woman in question undoubtedly would have preferred to do the same but, we can infer, she had been shunned.

Presumably, her neighbors disapproved of her lifestyle. Jesus noticed her, spoke to her and filled her with such confidence ("living" water) that she went to her disapproving neighbors to testify that she had seen the Messiah. And the people responded to her invitation to go see Jesus.

Jesus changed a woman's life -- a woman who had been ignored and shunned. He did it just by noticing and caring. (John 4:1-42)

Playing "Yogurt" is all about noticing what's right in front of you. Perhaps we can play "Yogurt" more productively -- through noticing the people others ignore and by speaking to them. We imitate Jesus when we do so; we may even change a life.

Jeff Long is pastor of Centenary United Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau. Married with two daughters, he is of Scots and Swedish descent, loves movies, and is a lifelong fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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