That famous line comes from the book Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Suess. The books main character of Horton the Elephant, while splashing in a pool, hears a small speck of dust talking to him. Horton believes that a small person lives on the speck and places it on a clover, vowing to protect it. He later discovers that the speck is actually a tiny planet, home to a community called Whoville, where creatures called Who’s live. Horton readily agrees to protect his new found friends proclaiming that “a person’s a person, no matter how small.”
Of a similar vein, there is a story where a student relates about a time her professor gave a pop quiz. She was a good student and easily breezed through the questions. Of course, until she read the last one: “What is the name of the woman who cleans this floor of the building?”
Another student complained about the relevance of this question was to what they had been studying and whether it would count towards their grade. The professor replied “Absolutely! In your careers, you will meet many people All of them are significant! They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say hello.”
The professor in this story is correct. We encounter many people in our day to day lives. Some we know and encounter daily such as our family members and co-workers. Others may be the briefest encounters such as the lady in the grocery store aisle, the cashier at Wal-Mart or the stockman at Lowes. When we encounter these people in our lives we must remember that they are all significant because we are all loved by the same God.
Guidance From Scripture
Scripture tells us that all people are equal in the sight of God and that all are equally in need of the redemption achieved through the saving death of Jesus Christ. All believers have equal status before God, despite differences in their social standing and background. This is a significant statement and one that deserves some contemplation.
Let’s say we are the CEO of a major local company. The company we own employees 500 people. Our product is sold internationally. We could be someone that people think is…”a big deal.” Let’s now turn our attention to that Wal-Mart cashier. She happens to be a down on her luck woman who had to take this job so that she and her husband can make ends meet every month often living from paycheck to paycheck.
Society Misleads The Faithful
Society would like to persuade us that the CEO is a person of great significance. The CEO is influential, well-respected, and a community leader. The cashier, not so much. She is someone that can be easily replaced by just another person in need of a job. God puts his foot down and says “I don’t think so”. In God’s eyes both the CEO and the cashier are equals. They have the same opportunity to attain heaven regardless of their social status and role in life. All believers have equal status before God, despite differences in their social standing and background. They BOTH have significance in the next life and that is where it really matters.
What are we called to do? We are required to treat others with respect. We are all equal despite the presumed social economic status we have attained in this earthly life. We are called not to look down our noses at those in a lesser situation. We are called to meet them where they are at and treat them as our equal.
In a family, parents, grandparents and children feel at home; no one is excluded. If someone has a problem, even a serious one, even if he brought it upon himself, the rest of the family comes to his assistance; they support him. … Should the same not happen in society? – Pope Francis
Putting It Into Action
We need to understand and appreciate where people are at in their current state of life. Even that person we fleetingly encounter in the grocery aisle is significant enough to warrant a hello. I recently went to the movies with a friend who went out of his way to thank the ticket booth attendant, the usher, and the snack bar employees for coming to work to serve us that day. He didn’t have to do that but he recognized the worth, value and significance of each of those people. In the words of Mother Teresa, he understood that “Every person is Jesus in disguise.”
Back to the professor who told his students: “In your careers you will meet many people. All of them are significant! They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say hello.” That is really all people from all walks of lie ever really want. They want your respect and compassion. Bear in mind that there is a difference between compassion (a feeling of wanting to help someone) and pity (a strong feeling of sadness for someone). One requires action the other only emotion.
In closing, the name of that lady that cleaned the floors was Dorothy and the students that day got a lesson they would never forget. Do you know the name of your last cashier? On your next trip to the store look at their name badge, flash a smile and say hello.
“Look at the face of the other… Discover that he has a soul, a history and a life, that he is a person and that God loves this person.” – author unknown
Make sure you are on their level…because despite what you think….you truly are.