It's people who make the difference

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The bank building appeared stark as I drove past; the atmosphere was motionless.

It was a Sunday. There was no hint of conversation. The building usually seemed full of life and prosperity. It buzzed with activity -- people conducting business in an apparently successful manner. They walked to and fro laughing and talking. You sensed purpose warmth and life.

Today, however, was different.

On Monday, I drove the same route. This time I noticed a church structure that had appeared so friendly and filled with cheer the day before. However, this morning that church seemed to contain little life.

Few people were going in and out its doors. Consequently, I focused my interest on the architecture, the grounds and the shape of the steeple. But the building that day lacked purpose.

I revisited the town where I attended school the first nine years of my life and returned to the place where I grew up, going past the farm that is now so different.

Everything has changed. New people have moved in, and my family no longer lives there. The absence of those I grew up loving is a glaring reality.

It's not the appearance of the locale that matters now but the fact that those I grew up with are no longer there. Some have moved away, and some are deceased.

The little house down the path where my grandmother lived is no longer visible. I picture her gray hair piled on top of her head in a little bun and her crisp, flowered apron neatly tied in back.

I miss her, not the house and the property she resided on. I can still see her petting her dog, Woody, as he slept beside her bed. I picture her as she toiled in her garden and told my brother and me that it wouldn't hurt us to work.

Grandma used to tell people to wear long sleeves as they went about their chores outside in the summer. "When the wind blows, it will cool your sweat and you won't be so hot," she would say. "If you wear short sleeves or shorts, the sun bears down right on you."

What made the place where Grandma lived and where I lived and attended school so special was the people involved in those memories.

The bank and church buildings seemed lifeless because I drove past them on a day they were closed to their main function -- that of serving people. It was people who made the difference.

Without the presence of human life everything is just what it is -- a location or thing. Bricks, wood, sand and mortar are building materials used to make things and houses for people.

When a business loses those employees who draw customers, it often loses patrons. Even though you shop at or support an establishment for what you need, you're more likely to frequent those whom you trust and feel comfortable with.

A warm atmosphere attracts people regardless of what you're promoting; it's a validation that a show of caring is what's important and lasting.

God recognized the need for human contact when God created man. Although he had made a magnificent and awesome world, it was still incomplete without the human element.

Even if breathing creatures such as animals, birds and fish were already present, he wanted people, in his image. Genesis 5:1 says, "In the day when God created man, he made him in the likeness of God."

God wanted a being with a spirit, like himself. Without the human aspect, regardless of how beautiful, and entertaining a thing might be, there's no communication, show of caring or eternal future.

It's people who genuinely count. Nurture your family and friends; it's that divine soul and spirit within them that's different. It lasts forever.

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

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