I was scrolling through Facebook today and I saw the following message; “KEEP people in your life that truly love you, motivate you, encourage you, inspire you, enhance you & make you happy. If you have people who do NONE of the above, let them go.” These sort of short inspirational messages are all over the internet and I have posted up a few of them myself. However as I read this one I found myself wondering what I should do with the people in my life who didn’t love me or motivate me or encourage me or inspire me or enhance me or even make me happy. And what if these same people did not motivate or inspire anyone? What if these people were a drain on me, their families and on the whole society?
It is important to surround ourselves with people who are going to encourage and inspire us. After all we become a reflection of the company we keep. If we spend our time with those who live to get drunk and party then we will end up doing the same. If we keep the company of those who strive for higher ideals then we will begin to strive for those same ideals. It would be hard to get up every morning for an entire lifetime if there was never anyone to pat us on the back and say ‘you’re doing well, keep going’. At times we need encouraging and sometimes we encourage others. This is the story of good friendships, each person looks out for the other and when either one is struggling the other is there to pick them up.
However we might add another category of people in our life and that is those who are always a bit of a drain on us. These people are always down, always needy and they probably have no real prospects of making something noteworthy of their life. They may not be able to work, they may never marry, they may always be sick or they may just generally not ‘fit in’.
The reality is though our world is made up of a multitude of people from the strong and the successful to the unloved and those perceived to be ‘useless’. Throughout history various people and ideologies have tried to remove the useless from society and it continues to this day. It is estimated that China has approximately 35 million more males than females due to deliberate male sex selection. Have you ever wondered why you see less children with Down’s Syndrome these days? That is because 90% of them are aborted when their parents receive a prenatal diagnosis of the condition.
Admittedly it can be difficult to embrace those who will make our life harder but the mark of any of us is how we embrace the weak and those whom no one else will love. Jesus of Nazareth told his disciples in very explicit terms that to love the hungry, the sick and the lonely was to love him and to ignore the hungry, the sick and the lonely was to ignore him and thus salvation. This pursuit of such ‘useless’ people is what continues to make Mother Teresa of Calcutta an example of virtue to Christian, Hindu and Atheist.
As good as it is that we are all willing to open our wallets to the starving in Africa and the Tsunami victims in Indonesia I think the test of who we are is found much closer to us. It is in that friend from school who still calls us every week even though he has nothing to say. It is in our meddlesome aunt who lives alone with no one to talk too. It is in that person we have lunch with each month even though they probably get more out of it than we do. The truth is these are the very encounters that define us. When the rich young Pier Giorgio Frassati died in 1925, it was the poor of Turin that packed his funeral in honour of the life he had secretly given in their service.
It is good to surround ourselves with those who love, motivate and encourage us. But let us never dismiss or forget those who cannot and will not be able to offer us these things. The ‘rejects’ of society deserve as much friendship as the next person. For it is only by the undeserved grace of God that we find ourselves not in that category.