Monday, November 3, 2014

Changing your mind

This month began with a reflection on saints. It reminded me of that question: what do you want to be when you grow up?

I realized that we should all have the same answer, saints. For each of us that should be our one true ambition. Everything else should be steps along the way. Being a good spouse, parent, teacher, lawyer, priest, etc. should all be seen as steps along the path. After all, we are all going to die and none of our possessions or titles will mean a thing. We will either end up saints or in hell. It really is that simple.

Today's first reading from the Letter to the Philippians gives us a place to start. It costs nothing it is simply a change in the way we look at the world.

humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also everyone for those of others.

In the last half of the 20th century we watched the flattening of American society. It was well intended. It was supposed to be a further democratization, treating everyone as equals. But instead of treating those who had been disrespected with more respect, we went the other way. We decided to treat no one with respect. What used to be common courtesy became so rare that when people exhibited it, we were surprised. Even the word manners had disappeared from our vocabulary.

The good news is that in the 21st century it seems to be on the return. Neighborliness has returned. My neighborhood, Church Hill is a good example.

St. Paul today reminds us that if we are Christian, we need to take one further step. It is not enough to be polite and respectful. We have to treat others as more important that ourselves, no matter who they are. Imagine walking through this day and treating every person you meet as someone more important than yourself. On the road, in the store, at work; everyone is someone more important than you. When you call customer service the person in the call center in India is more important than you. Their time is more valuable than yours.

For most of us this is going to require a radical change of mindset. And it will not come quickly. It will take lots of practice. And we will catch ourselves falling back into our old ways often, but with God's grace we can do it. It begins with simple resolution. Beginning now, I will treat others as more important than myself.