I recently attended a brainstorming session focusing on how to best deliver and follow up much needed care to a growing, vulnerable patient population in the community. Nothing was put on paper at the initial meeting. It was just an exchange of ideas, references, and an intention of good will and future partnership.
Later, when talking about the meeting with a friend, he couldn’t understand how we didn’t enter anything in writing. I explained that the intention was to get to know each other and test the waters. I also said that a firm handshake sometimes speaks volumes. The first contact can be low-key but it should pique the other person’s interest so that he or she will want to get to know you better. I’m satisfied that the meeting did that.
The way we treat others and the way we present ourselves go a long way in establishing a relationship, whether it’s very brief as when we have a short conversation with the person ahead of us in the grocery store check-out, or more lasting as with an enduring friendship, a community project or even a business venture. First impressions are important and often will determine whether or not the relationship continues.
As I thought more about the meeting, I was reminded of the following Bible passage: “The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.” (1Jn.3:1-2) We want people to get to know us but in order to do that we have to show them our true selves. Who we really are is God’s creation, His child. That’s our true identity, whether at work, at home, at school or at leisure. We ought not to be afraid of revealing who we are.
In all of our daily encounters, we are called to evangelize. As Mary brought unborn baby Jesus to Elizabeth and her unborn baby, John, we are to bring Christ to others. We don’t have to preach at the people we meet with words of fear and judgment; we don’t have to be over-zealous. That will just turn them off and they will turn away from us. The way we treat the people we meet- with respect, courtesy, honesty, integrity, genuine interest, charity, humility – is how we preach the Gospel. In so doing, they hopefully see the light of Christ in us and get to know Him.
At the same time, we seek out Jesus in the people we meet because He is present in all of us. When I have difficulty establishing a relationship with someone, I have to stop and remember that Jesus lives in them. That reminder makes me change the way I look at the other person.
Whenever I propose a business or community advocacy idea, there is the possibility that it will be rejected. That’s just life. Similarly, when we show our true selves – a son or daughter of our Father – there is the possibility of rejection. Jesus warns us that will happen, but with grace and love, we reveal ourselves anyway. There is no other way to live authentically. All of our encounters, including the brief ones, should show that who we are and what we believe are worth knowing because of the way we love others. If the world knows us, then the world knows Him because it is through us that the Gospel is lived.