I live in a school district where there has been a battle waging for years over budgetary concerns (your district probably has similar struggles), and the value of education, teacher salaries, and curriculum has been questioned excessively to exhaustion and yet not to solution. The value of various programs, like the preschool program Cottontail was waitlisted a year to enter, only to have the entire preschool and Home Ec courses and teachers cut out and closed when she finally would have been able to start, this value is of less importance apparently than that of the dollar value. To me, and to families in our district, this was a major loss in valuable education for not just the kids who would have benefited from a budget-friendly and quality preschool program, but also for the high school kids who lost incredible, hands-on learning opportunities to practice teaching and childcare skills, cooking or baking lessons, budgeting and grocery shopping practice, basically the real-life things adults have to do every day. THIS cluster of classes, that provided valuable, life lessons in controlled settings (because childcare is different with a real baby versus a crying baby doll, and because a fictional budget is way different than going broke with your own money)… these classes were determined by the school board as not having enough educational value to keep in their budget, whereas adding hundreds of dollars worth of gravel to a student parking lot was more valued.
We live in a country where we spend bazillions of dollars on green energy and alternative fuel research, which I bring up not because I think that there isn’t value in pursuing these things, but because we have children dying of hunger and abuse in this country every day, who could benefit from that same money being used differently. The value of corn to the fuel industry has changed the face of not just the transportation industry and farming community, but also that of the grocery store and butcher shop. The amount of money being poured into installing solar panels and wind turbines to decrease our carbon footprint is increasing, just like the number of kids on free or reduced lunch programs, for which there is decreasing funding.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a nature-aholic and I spend lots of quality time in it with my girls, hiking in it and observing its wonders, picking up litter on beaches, conserving energy at home as much as we can, etc. That being said, how do we justify the bazillions of dollars that are being spent on these things, when we have excessive numbers of homeless individuals, runaway teens, starving children and abused women and kids? How do we not find at least equivalent value in these lives as in that of creating a car that runs on electricity (which, by the way, still requires energy to produce – it’s not a free resource)?
What about the millions and billions of federal dollars that is earmarked for education, and yet at least two local school districts in our city just closed due to lack of funding, with more districts rumored to close soon?
But this is where I struggle with the word “value” – because I absolutely value other things WAAAAY more than I value our massive van’s hauling capabilities or than the stuff I buy on clearance, and clearly others value money over educational opportunities, regardless of the usefulness of any of it.
The very definitions of “value,” according to Google, are “1. the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something. 2. a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life. 3. estimate the monetary worth of (something). 4. consider (someone or something) to be important or beneficial; have a high opinion of.”
Ok, so value doesn’t equal only its usefulness, it is the regard given something’s usefulness. Value can be based on monetary worth, or that which is judged to be important. Some of the synonyms for “value” are “worth,” “benefit,” or “profit.”
Apparently there are those in some places that value energy conservation over finding ways to provide food for the impoverished, and a set of test scores that results in financial backing for important educational programs – only if there is a profit or some further benefit to doing so?
Why isn’t education valued for its own sake and for the fact that it can bring enlightenment and offer new insights into affecting humanity positively, rather than valued because of its test scores or budgetary resources?
So, if education isn’t valued beyond a price tag, and hunger isn’t valued more than fuel research, and my own bargain hunting isn’t valued more than the item’s usefulness…. is it any wonder why humanity isn’t valued? Why isn’t life, every single God-breathed life, worthwhile? Is it because life doesn’t equal profit or monetary gain, that perhaps we make one life to be more important than another, and thus steal its value? Who gets to decide which lives have value or worth, and which lives do not?
This week marked the third anniversary of heartbreaking loss at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, and this year was the fourteenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, not to mention too many other anniversaries of too many other mass or isolated tragedies in too many locations domestically and globally. Racial tensions in the US and religious intolerance on all sides is escalating in both extremism and violence. Just this year, Paris and Mali were terrorized by ISIS, while families raced out of Syria for their lives, and Boko Haram slaughtered Africans by the thousands, among too many other attacks on the hearts, minds, and bodies of too many people in too many places to mention. Sex trafficking of women and children in the US (yes, it absolutely happens here too) and abroad is its own tragedy of a different kind of terrorism, as is domestic abuse upon the vulnerable and those deemed unworthy of equal standing or value.
Who decided for any of the victims that their lives had too little value, or importance, or worth? Who chose a finite path for way, way, way too many individuals who were voiceless, vulnerable, and hopeless? Why were they not allowed to be the future, to have a voice, to share in our joined efforts to actually value one another and to affect helpfulness rather than hurtfulness? Why does this need to continue, day after day after day?
For me, I don’t think that this is really what God intended.
That He really wanted people to fear or be feared, to hurt or to be hurt, to live each day as their last because we really don’t know what might happen today or who might shoot up a place we visit today?
That God wants to see His children, of all ages, of all nationalities and religions, of all socioeconomic statuses, to see these children suffer or fall in despair over the state of the world and its higher regard for the price tag than the God-given value?
Do I think God weeps over every lost lamb who seeks destruction rather than repair, who angers to an extreme and hurts another, who seeks the services of a sex slave rather than freeing her, who beats a child physically or mentally or emotionally, who allows another to starve and die of malnutrition, who turns a blind eye to the ravages of humanity upon itself? Absolutely He weeps with frustration and confusion. He angers against such injustices and He sobs in heartache and sorrow. Just like you. Just like me.
God created each of us with such hope and purpose and value and worth, how could He not suffer each of our missteps and fears? He knows and He understands. He hasn’t placed a price tag or a monetary value upon your head or mine, no matter how many times either of us missteps or turns away.
He hasn’t turned His back on humanity, no matter how many people change the hope and purpose and promise for which they were created, and turn it all into fear and terror and destruction upon others they so wrongly deem worthless and less valuable. He still works in the world for good, works in us for good, works in us to bring about good for others, the world, and ourselves. He is still here. His presence is valuable and invaluable.
There is value in good, in bringing about good in a broken, fallen world.
There is value in love and in loving others, regardless of their good and bad choices.
There is value in kindness and compassion and helpfulness.
There is value in hope and in bringing hope to another.
There is value in the invaluable-ness of every created being.
There is value in reaching deep and down and dirty into the ugliness of humanity to bring up from the dredges, to bring hope to the hopeless, to bring love to the unloved.
There is value beyond a price tag.
There is value in value itself, in the importance of the created and the Creator, in the love that carefully crafted each of us, in hope and purpose and value.
Value that is determined by ITs price tag and not by ITs worth to those who receive IT or WHO are IT.
Value that is too often defined by its financial benefit, not by the God-given worth so lovingly bestowed upon or within the person.
Value that is stripped from humanity by cruelty, hatred, wrong-doing, or pain, especially when brought about at the hands of another who seeks power or prestige over kindness, compassion, or love.
Why? To what end do we steal the value, the God-given worth of another human being without so much as asking permission, much less considering the potential consequences of such a devastating choice?
To what end to we rob another person of truly experiencing God as we appreciate and care for one another as Jesus Himself showed us in His own example? What are we getting out of it?
The demoralization of another’s heart and soul is truly that – devastating – and can truly have lasting effects, and sometimes even deadly effects. In the past few months, I’ve learned of too many children (young men, actually) and adults I personally know who have taken their own lives after being brought to such lows that there seemed no other way out. No hope or light on the other side of the darkness felt like enough to pull them back from making a permanent choice to end a temporary problem.
Why is this ok? Why are we not reaching out to others with Hope and Love and Light to pierce through the shadows, to find the innermost pains WE ALL FEEL, and to gently take another’s hand to walk alongside, back out of the hurt?
Why do we not recognize that each other person we see started the same way, microscopically and blessed, to prayerfully become tiny naked newborns, thrust into a harshly bright, cold world that is light years different from the cozy, warm haven from which tiny babies emerge? Why do we not find life to be a precious gift in all of its forms, in the strengths and vulnerabilities we each have tucked inside? Why are we instead competing against others to find something to prey upon in them, to attack them with verbally and electronically, while we simultaneously try to Facebook and Instagram and Tweet our latest amazing accomplishment from the mountaintop?
What happened to the JOURNEY through the mountains, the valleys every single one of us struggles through, the challenging climbs and falls every single one of us has to reach the next pinnacle, and the soaring elation of finally reaching the summit and surveying the JOURNEY it took to make it there, the lessons learned along the way, and NOT the people we tromped on to make it there?
Every human being on Earth started the exact same way. Exact same.
Every single human being spit up on someone’s shoulder, pooped up a onesie at precisely the wrong moment, and peed all over someone trying desperately to control the flow. Every single person who is physically able to see and hear and touch and feel and taste and talk and walk had to do so from the most infantile of beginnings, struggling to learn each new lesson, clapping joyously after figuring it out slowly and oftentimes painfully. And those who are not physically able to perform such tasks had to accomplish even greater and more difficult jobs – learning how to adapt their bodies and their minds to do many of those same things in different ways to hopefully become more “acceptable” in a harsh world that is not always helpful or uplifting for them.
Every single human being has desperately searched, and most of us still do, for comfort, whether in the arms of someone’s love, in the nourishment needed to grow, in the peace that comes with finding home.
Every single one of us on the entire planet, regardless of how much of our TRUE SELVES we have to hide within or adapt on the outside, wants to be LOVED and appreciated and accepted, AS IS.
So why, if we all have the exact same beginnings, granted some of us have started with rougher and more difficult circumstances even before birth, why in the world do we not see that every single human being throughout eternity has value and worth and deserves to be treated as such?
Why do we instead try to fit ourselves into Someone Else’s idea of who we should be, even if it costs us our HAND-CRAFTED INDIVIDUALITY?
Why do we try so hard to smoosh others into this same box, denying their incredibly beautiful, intricately designed, GOD-MADENESS?
Why do we look at the wrappers around people’s beings, whether a different shade or with different abilities? Isn’t it more like opening up a bag of plain M&Ms – they all taste the same, but just have different colors of candy coating? Some have Ms printed on one side and some don’t, and sometimes there are some that have slightly different shapes, are chipped or are broken… Does the color or the shape really affect the contents of the M&M? I’m not a candy connoisseur, but I really can’t tell if the wrapper of the candy has changed the taste of its content, regardless of the M&Ms’ color or shape or brokenness. Maybe we try to add flavors or stuff to the chocolate inside the candy coating to make us more appealing to Someone Else, denying the humility of the plain chocolate’s simplicity.
Again, to what end? Who is the Someone Else we are working so darn hard to please?
Why is our focus upon the differences we see first, maybe hear later, and sometimes experience?
Why are we so hesitant to FIND THE GOOD in others, rather than more reasons to turn away, to break another person’s soul, to look down upon each other?
What would really be so bad about looking past the parts of people we perceive as flaws and see how, maybe just possibly, those “flaws” are actually blessings that should be cultivated? (Clearly I don’t mean that we encourage those traits in people that make the murderous or violent or anything similar – but perhaps finding the good in such people long ago could have prevented anger growing into violence.)
What would actually be wrong with FINDING THE GOOD in each other?
Again, let me be clear – I’m not talking about praising every insignificant thing someone does to build within that person a false sense of being the most amazing person to walk on Earth, and I’m not talking about awarding or rewarding mere participation in life so that true purpose and hardworking drive and internal motivation to use God’s gifts are no longer the accomplishment. I’m not saying that we fluff up each other’s self-esteem bubble such that it is ready to leak or burst at the mere hint of criticism.
And I’m not saying that we don’t provide loving guidance for our children and protection for their safety, or that we don’t have to maintain standards in our workplaces or rules in our homes – those things are necessary, and reasonable boundaries are helpful. God himself has provided us with His own guidelines and standards for living, so I can’t think that He would discourage boundary-setting out of love and compassion, rather than fear, anxiety, or anger.
So what does it mean to FIND THE GOOD? To recognize each other’s value and worth, to appreciate people as they are and were created to be. Sometimes this looks like simply thanking someone for their helpfulness or their contribution to society (think of your neighborhood’s garbage collector or police officer or librarian).
It is finding the good ways that someone is serving others in even the smallest of ways, sharing genuine kindness or compassion, listening deeply to others, cultivating the tiny seedlings of Light and Hope that each person possesses to bring more GOOD into the world.
Yes, this calls for a certain awareness of others of the world, and not just surviving the day-to-day drudgery.
Yes, this sometimes means slowing down the frantic pace of life for a few minutes to actually hear and be affected by another person’s story.
Yes, this can mean building up someone else’s heart and soul, rather than tearing her apart or competing against him.
Yes, FINDING THE GOOD means digging deep, dying to your own needs or wants a bit or a lot, and investing even a small amount of yourself into someone else – for their good, not yours.
I’m going to use this example, NOT because I think there should be any pats on the back or accolades about it, but because it is a story of how simple it can be to SHARE THE GOOD with others. Last year, my little girls and I were blessed by the stories of many of the people who live along our walking route, and many of their lives screamed out to us that there is loneliness, abandonment, and solitude even in the most friendly of people, that there is pain and joy lying just beneath the surface in every single person we meet. So we decided to make and deliver Thanksgiving dinners and little flower bouquets for several of our elderly neighbors who had no family, had lost a spouse to Heaven’s gate, were tired caregivers, were injured or ill, or who had no family nearby. The girls worked hard, really hard, but with such joy and excitement – but really, truly did not think about how their work affected them, but how the recipients might feel to know that they were recognized and cared about, even just for a meal. When Husband, the girls, and I visited the different houses the Sunday night before Thanksgiving, we were beyond thankful that our friends were home, would visit with us for a few minutes, and that they were willing to take our little gifts. We didn’t want to offend anyone, but just wanted them to know that we cared. One quiet couple told us that no one had ever done anything like that for them before, and another couple invited us to become the family they don’t have, even offering to spend their meager money on our girls for Christmas gifts. And yes, there were kind thank you notes and text messages, and even gift cards for the girls, but that certainly wasn’t our point or our hope. It was not to be about us or the little bit of effort or even the food. Our friends were just amazed that someone cared – about them.
For the first time ever, we spent Thanksgiving Day as I’d always hoped to spend it – helping to serve dinners and visit with elderly shut-ins and food bank recipients in our area through a local church’s community Thanksgiving meal. Again, being able to hear people’s stories and share food with people who otherwise would have no one to spend the day – such a gift to be thankful for. We are blessed to have family, messy, crazy, oftentimes frustrating family. But not everyone has even that, and it was lovely to SHARE THE GOOD with them simply by serving and cleaning and sharing food, to slow down long enough to FIND THE GOOD in souls just as weary as ours, whose pain and joy were just like ours, but who had been forgotten because sometimes they’re not seen as being as valuable or as important as the bubble lives we sometimes live.
We are called, are commanded by God Himself to BE THE GOOD in the world and our homes, in our neighborhoods and schools and churches and grocery stores. Because FINDING THE GOOD needs to become SHARING THE GOOD so that BEING THE GOOD becomes the calling within each of our hearts and souls and lives every single day. Not just because we sometimes get a pat on the back for being kind, but because God’s most vital commandment is to LOVE OTHERS MORE THAN OURSELVES.
Because “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends… And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:1-8a, 13).”
Love means looking past the little things in other people, and in ourselves, that are so often the same things we use to attack them in our competitive need to cover over our own shortcomings by making others look smaller than ourselves. God has created each of us in all of our quirkinesses and oddities, not just in the praise-worthinesses. We are created in His very image.
How can we dare to pick apart other people, not seeing them through loving eyes but in critical and degrading eyes?
How can we dare to tell God that He made mistakes in His crafting of a life, a soul, a being?
How can we dare to say that one of His creations is better than another when we all began the exact same way, have the exact same components that, although they may look or function differently than our own, are no less valuable and worthy in His eyes?
How can we dare to tell God that His creations have no good, no redemptive value, and therefore are unworthy of love and kindness and compassion? It would be as if we were saying it directly to God Himself.
Which is exactly what we are doing when we do not value each other… when we turn a blind eye to the abuses and mental illnesses and suicide and trafficking and fear and enslavement and abandonment and loneliness and pain and suffering that surrounds us.
When it is easier to pick others apart and tear them down, to look past the hurts we all have, instead of finding the good in them, encouraging their relentless spirits to keep going in the midst of the valleys on their journeys, cultivating their little seedlings of faith and love and kindness to grow into the amazing people they are created to be. I’ll say it again…
Because FINDING THE GOOD needs to become SHARING THE GOOD so that BEING THE GOOD becomes the calling within each of our hearts and souls and lives every single day. Because FINDING THE GOOD is loving beyond reason and FINDING THE VALUE in everyone, just as they are and were created to be.
If you truly believe in the value of life, you care about all of the weakest and most vulnerable members of society.” ~ Joni Eareckson Tada