All those people going somewhere…why have I never cared?
Think about it for a moment. Truly think about it. Think about how many people you pass in a given day, how many people you encounter (either directly or indirectly) in your day-to-day goings on, how many living and breathing human beings walk on by you without an eyelash being batted either way. Think about that one time you smiled at a person and saw their entire face light up, a somber expression melting into a radiant happiness that can only be described as joy. Think about those people who walk with their eyes trained on the ground, those who swerve to the other side of the sidewalk or street when someone else comes near.
Think about the fact that there has been some point in your life when you were the person who needed to see that smile. Think about the fact that there was a time when you were the person who swerved out of the way to avoid people’s eyes.
Think about the grounding reality that everybody is living out their own story, but the majority of the time we only seem to think about our own. We think of others as our biographers – or perhaps just side characters whose main purpose is the role they play in our life – but everybody has their own biography being written, their own sagas that they live out day after day. From that person you pass on the sidewalk’s perspective, it is they who are the main character in the story and it is you who is playing the supporting role. They have their own ambitions, their own beliefs, their own complexities, their own destinations, their own goals, their own thoughts…
There is much more that could be said about the topic, but instead I ask you this: What are you going to do about it? For all you know, you are but a cameo or some unnamed, unseen character in the backdrop of the unfolding drama of a person’s life, yet you look at them and think that the roles are reversed. Don’t be so deceived, my friends – you are but one human being on a planet that has billions, and yet you for some reason delude yourself into thinking that you are the main character. And I do the exact same thing.
Isn’t it beautiful?
That might not be the emotional response you were experiencing, but allow me to explain:
While we are so dead-set in having our own series of books – if I so seek to keep the metaphor going – perhaps we are taking the wrong perspective. Perhaps the entire human race is to be treated as an anthology series, a series that at first glance seems to share no common story or plot, but somehow ends up having something in common. Somehow, there’s a single, unifying thread that ties each of our stories together, a common denominator that at last brings the series to a satisfying conclusion when its time for the series to come to an end. Perhaps each book is written by the same author (or should I say Author), and perhaps the very fact that we exist is testament to the reality that the Author found our story one worth being told, one so crucial to the plot of the anthology that He could not glaze over it. Had there been only two stories, then surely one story could play a greater part in the overarching plot than the other; but the fact that even after billions of stories, the Author set aside time to write yours? A story worth being told indeed, I would say. We can now see that our existence among billions is in fact a treasure, not a travesty. Even though there were an infinite amount of stories capable of being told, the Author decided that yours was one that would contribute so much to the overarching plot that is needed to be told.
This being said, it begs us ask the big question: “What is our story?” If we are not the main character of our own book series and yet the Author nevertheless deemed our story one being worth told, then surely a hint as to what drives the plot would be beneficial to making sure that our lives would prove to be the best possible story upon publication, right? If we want to guarantee that our stories become more than just a side plot, shouldn’t we try and deduce the main storyline so that we can live or lives so as to contribute to it?
This brings us back to those other people, to the people we pass by each and every day on the roads and sidewalks, as we walk or as we drive or as we fly or as we sit. You see, if we belong to an anthology series, then they too belong to that same series, and if we can find the common denominator that links us together, then surely we can discover the true main character of the book, the character who receives not just one book, but perhaps four or twenty-seven or thirty-nine or sixty-six in contribution to the series as a whole! By looking to the lives of others, we can try and deduce who that main character is, and in doing so, we can discover the way that ensures we play a more prevalent part in the Grand Plot. In doing so, we can move from background character to cameo, from cameo to side character, and from side character to supporting role.
You see, Lois Lane and Lex Luthor have their own stories to be told, but it is Superman who drives the plot. Ron and Hermione are great, but where would they be without Harry Potter? Rosencrantz and Guildenstern lose their interest when Hamlet leaves the scene. If we have come to the realization that we are but one story amongst billions, then the best thing we can do is find that which gives our story meaning and pursue it. And so we must look to others.
Take a trip with me. Let’s go to the middle of a college campus around noontime on a Wednesday. Thousands of twenty-something youngsters scramble back and forth from building to building, each of them with their own destinations and schedules. Some smile while some frown, some look up while some look down, some walk fast while some walk slow, some are stressed while some just go. You have students and teachers, husbands and wives, singles and widows, uplifted and depressed. There are those who study and those who party, those who strive to make the most of their life and those who have simply given up. Some believe in God while some believe themselves gods; some have hopes and dreams while some just hope that the misery would come to an end. All those people are going somewhere, yet so often we forget to care. Surely I am not alone in this ignorance. Every person that passes by has their own heartaches, their own failures, their own insecurities, their own struggles…
Why have we never cared?
Can you see how, in fact, it is a relief to not be the main character of this story? Imagine the pressure of having to bear the weight of every human soul, both happy and sad, confused and mad. I wouldn’t want such a burden for myself. I wouldn’t want to be the person responsible for tying those plots together.
My message to you today is not to present the Gospel – and I will get to my actual point in but a moment – but I do feel like I would be doing you an injustice if I did not first admit that I believe the main character of this story to be a man called Yeshua, a charismatic and controversial teacher who lived in the Middle East two thousand years ago. You might know him by the name Jesus. I believe that if mankind is an anthology then Jesus Christ is that common thread, the common denominator that ties us all together into one single, unifying story. You see, the truth lies in the fact that every person that passes by seeks one thing and one thing only: joy. Satisfaction, you might call it. Or meaning. The elevated and the downtrodden, the family and the fatherless, the optimist and the pessimist, they all desire meaning, satisfaction, joy. They want to figure out what the plot of their life is, and as each person tries to figure out what that plot is, they turn to different things; some turn to pleasure, some turn to wisdom, some turn to money, some turn to folly. They try to achieve satisfaction by whatever means necessary, denying themselves no pleasure as they strive to achieve it…but I believe – and I honestly do believe this – that there is a solution to this meaninglessness, this utter vanity or futile striving. You see, the burden of being the main character is lifted off your shoulders when you realize that Jesus Christ came down to bear a cross upon his own. That weight that you're carrying, that struggle you bear…he already did that for you, he has already taken that weight upon himself. He marched up a hill called Calvary and died in your place, and then he came back to life so that you too may live. So if you find your meaning in him, then you can pursue that plot and ensure your part in the series is one of the most exciting stories ever told.
But like I said, the Gospel is not my main point for today (though it is a point I seek to profess each and every day for the remainder of my life). Because you see, the point I’m making today has nothing to do with your story at all; it has to do with the story of those people around you.
The reason I had to include the Gospel here is because I wanted to say this: the greatest way in which we, as Christians, can express the gripping reality of Christ to the world is through a thing called “love.” L-O-V-E. Love. Ahava. Agape. Amor. There are so many ways to say it, so many ways to convey it, so many ways to mean it. I have been writing about love a lot lately, and today my point is for you to look at those people you pass by and just love them.
Recently I wrote a blog entitled “the Canvas Called Forever” – in which I talked about how every “Hello” we share with a person has the potential of kicking off a series of life-changing events in our lives – but now I ask you flip the scenario: whenever you greet someone or smile at them, you are being given the chance to change their lives. You have the chance to be more than just a cameo that passes by. You have the chance to be the person that takes their tragedy and turns it into a legacy. You have the chance to be the person that takes their drama and turns it into a comedy. You have the chance to be the person that takes their frown and turns it into a smile.
Often times we try to convince ourselves that someone else will step in and make someone’s day. We see that girl crying on the bus and we think, “Man, she really needs one of her friends to show up and comfort her.” We see that person whip their eyes away from our own and think, “Wow, they need someone to tell them how truly beautiful they are.” We see a person with drooping shoulders and we think, “Wow, that person could really use somebody to brighten their day.”
My friends, my friends, BE THAT PERSON!
NOW LET’S BE HONEST…when we think those things and don’t take action, that’s because we believe ourselves to be the main characters of our story. We would give anything to have somebody comfort us in our time of need – or perhaps we are too prideful to admit so – but when somebody else is crying, we try to justify our inaction by saying that somebody else will do the job. The problem is that you don’t know that to be true. Stop being the main character of your own story and realize that there is a greater story to be told! There is hope beyond all suffering, joy beyond all tears, peace beyond all tragedies, and love beyond all fears. All can find redemption through the blood of Christ, so that while our bodies might be dying, we will always be alive.
So start caring, my friends. Make the realization that you are not the main character and that there is a greater story to be told, a story that quenches all sorrows and dries all teary eyes. You have the power through but a smile to make a depressed person feel loved.You have the power through but a word to stop somebody from committing suicide. You have the power through but a story to make a dead man come back to life.
Recognize the main character of your story and then pursue His plot. Go out into the world and love. Take out your headphones when you walk; put away your phone; stop focusing on yourself! Make eye contact with people, flash smiles, share conversations. You never know when you could be the plot point that solves their greatest mystery, the statement that gives meaning to their entire life. The Author has great plans for you and found your story worth being told, so make the most of it and don’t waste a single breath. Open your arms for the broken-hearted and open your heart for the ones forgotten. Be the light that you were called to be and cast away all the shadows from their life. You have the power to do that.
All those people are going somewhere…it’s time for us to care.