Veggie Dip and Shoelaces

Disclaimer: This post is from the archives, and may not represent the current views of the author. It also may not be at all interesting to read. Continue at your own peril!

If there’s one thing that’s really annoying me right now, it’s the people that keep emailing me looking for someone else. Like, I mean, I’m assuming that they’re looking for another Jeff Hughes, since it’s clearly my name in my email, but I get all these weird emails from strangers that sound like they’re in the middle of a conversation or something. It’s not spam, either – I’ve sent emails back to them, letting them know they have the wrong email, and they’ve replied saying thanks. Today I got an email from a lady named Chantal who was talking about her vegetable dip and about her plans for getting to the party and such. Who is this person? I have no idea. I sent her an email thanking her for the vegetable dip, but recommending that she try using the right email so that her valued dip gets to the right destination. I didn’t use those exact words, but that was the idea. It’s really getting annoying, though. One person sent me financial documents for a business in an attachment. That one really freaked me out. I sent an email back to them and then deleted it without opening the attachment – I didn’t know if they were confidential or not, but I wanted to be on the safe side. I guess the moral of the story is: If you have anything worth saying, make sure you talk to the right person. Otherwise, you might just find out that your spinach dip ended up in the wrong hands. Insert suspenseful organ music here.

On a completely different note, I’ve been reading through the book Better Together that Central’s youth small groups are studying, and it’s been talking about loving others. Today’s little chapter was talking about dealing with people’s practical needs and such. As I thought about it, I realized that over the past week or so, I’ve had several ways to serve others in practical ways. I mean, it hasn’t been anything big at all. In one circumstance, it was just reaching an item from a high shelf for an older lady in Dollarama. I saw her struggling and trying to climb up on the shelf to reach it, and so I just said, “Do you need some help?” I reached for it and got it down for her, she said thanks, and that was that. When people do things like that, we don’t normally think of it as “showing God’s love to people.” We normally think of providing food or shelter for the homeless, adopting orphans, or something like that. And those are all very good things to do. But Jesus said that even giving someone a cup of cold water in His name was an act of love. That’s not anything big at all. I mean, what expense is it to us, giving someone a glass of water? It probably costs $0.0001 on the water bill. But it’s the thought that counts, not the magnitude of the act.

As I wrote down my thoughts for today after reading the short chapter, one thought struck me: love is urgent. After all, “me time” can wait, but if you wait too long to show love to someone, the opportunity might be gone. In many cases, loving and serving others can be premeditated and planned out, like in the case of sending food to starving children or setting up a homeless shelter. These are all great ways to serve people, and I have the greatest respect for the people who take on these endeavours. But so often we stop at those – we think, “Oh, I could never do something that big. I’ll just donate money and then pat myself on the back for a job well done.” We completely miss the opportunities that God lays out in front of us daily. These acts of love might be smaller, but they are just as important in God’s eyes – often He will use spur-of-the-moment situations to determine just how willing your heart really is.

I think back to one day when I was standing out at the bus stop, waiting for the bus. A man with a mild handicap of some sort walked by on the sidewalk to wait for the bus also. He had a walker, and although he was able to walk, it was obvious that it was hard for him to do so. As he approached me, I said, “Hello.” Even now, I’m really not sure why I said that. I had my music playing, and I don’t normally say hello to strangers walking by – but I did this time, and that allowed me to do something even more wonderful. He stopped on the sidewalk beside me, and then turned his walker around, using it as a seat – it had a flat part on it that I assume was meant to be used for that purpose. He then asked me, with some embarrassment, if I could tie his shoe for him. And without hesitation, I said, “Sure,” kneeling down and tying it for him. He added that it was hard for him to bend down to do it himself. Then, with the task done, he moved over and not another word was said. The bus came and we both got on, and that was that.

I’m sure no one would disagree with me that what I did at the bus stop that day was a nice thing to do. It was certainly an act of service, and an act of love, although I definitely didn’t think of it as that at the time. To me, it was just something to be done, and I knew I had to do it, because it was a need that had to be dealt with. I say this because too often we go around trying to force ourselves to remember to be loving. We say to ourselves, “Okay, I have to remember to be loving today, and to look for opportunities to love others.” Then we go around trying to help people that don’t need to be helped, really just making awkward situations more than anything. But to love others doesn’t always take a conscious effort. We don’t need to be faced with a situation, then think to ourselves, “This person is a child of God, and therefore I should help them because God loves them, so I should too.” I mean, it’s fine to think that way, but it’s more an unconscious mindset that needs to be developed. When this guy asked me to tie his shoe, I didn’t stand there and consider it, debating between my selfish desire to be lazy and God’s love for this person that I could show in a practical way. The act wasn’t even due to heartbroken compassion for this person. It was just a mindset – someone asked me to do something, and I should do it. So I did it.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is that sometimes people try too hard to love others. And while they might have the best intentions, to the person being helped, it might look forced or fake. True acts of love should flow naturally from a heart that beats for others, not focussed on self. From people that start up organizations like World Vision to the person who offers his seat to someone else, the fact is that these people have an unselfish desire to help others. The desire might not even be recognizable on the surface, but somewhere in their unconscious mind, there’s a rule that says “Person needing help -> Help person.” It becomes automatic, instead of having to walk around constantly thinking, “Must help people, must help people.” Then, when faced with spur-of-the-moment situations requiring your help, where if you sit there and think about it for more than three seconds, the person may just walk away or someone else might intervene and help the person instead, you’ll be ready. Your unconscious mind will leap into action, evaluating the situation as a person needing help, and triggering the response to help them. Then you get times where you look back and say, “Hey, that was really loving of me. I didn’t even realize it; I just did what was needed.”

So how do we develop this unconscious mindset? Well, that’s where I’m a little foggy. I guess the best strategy is just practice. Make it a habit, and then it becomes natural. The only way to form a habit is to do it consciously until it becomes natural. So I suppose your acts of love might look forced at first, just because they are. But after a while, the rough edges will be smoothed out, and God’s love can flow through you like a faucet. I must admit that I’m not really there. Every once in a while, I’ll be like, “Hey, this is a great opportunity to show love!” But most of the time I’m too busy doing what I want. I only offer this outline in my blog because, well, it’s my blog, and I can write whatever I want. I also know that it’s the path to success, even though I might not have travelled down it very far. But yeah – with that said, I guess I’m just going to end this off. I have homework to do, and then it’s off to the Under Cover video series at my church. Then, it’s probably time for more homework. Man, school needs to hurry up and end already.

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