On Wednesday I went to a dinner party with ladies from my church. I was late, embarrassingly late. Plus, I am fighting off my first case of poison ivy. My failure to properly empathize is now apparent. Golly, it’s really quite unpleasant. I was pulling weeds with gloves so my hands are fine, but evidently I like to touch my face a lot while weeding. It’s all around my lips and it hurts to eat and to laugh, not that the frequency of nor enthusiasm for either has diminished.
But I am so grateful that I was craving fellowship enough to overlook my own appearance and tardiness – it was a delicious and delightful evening. It did my soul so much good. Sweet stories were told, connections were made, and there were many laughs.
But the best laugh of the night was one I’ve replayed over and over in my mind.
The hostess told a story about Anna Blair, the daughter of one of the guests, Beth. Anna Blair is now a senior in high school, but when she was in third grade she attended a gathering at the beautiful home of the hostess. The children were having a fabulous time zip lining across a creek on the property. But then sweet Anna Blair got stung by a yellow jacket and came running up to the house crying hysterically.
When the hostess tried to console her, Anna Blair looked up, right in the midst of sobbing, and asked, “How’s y’all’s family doing?”
I could picture the scene perfectly and this little one’s unusual response. How darling!
But the story got even better when Beth explained that she required her three young children to ask at least one question any time they interacted with adults. In the grocery store, at the park, anywhere they came into contact with an adult, they couldn’t just sit there passively. Beth taught them to take the initiative to ask at least one question. Is that the most brilliant parenting tip you’ve ever heard?
Anna Blair was rightfully devastated to have her zip-lining fun cut short by a painful sting, but that didn’t stop her from trying to do as her wise mama taught her. She bravely sniffed and took the focus off herself: “How’s y’all’s family doing?”
Of course, it’s not merely about being a good conversationalist, Anna Blair and her siblings were implicitly taught the truth of Scripture. Philippians 2:3-4 says, ”Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
May we emulate this precious little girl by taking the focus off ourselves – even in the midst of pain – and instead willfully and thoughtfully engage those around us. May we teach our children to pay attention, to look others in the eye, and to ask questions. May we be willing, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to set aside our own interests and put others first. What a world-changing concept!