There's no 'I' in 'others'
There's no 'I' in 'others'
13 June 2017
I grew up in a strong-willed, put-it-all-on-the-table, loving family.
Opinions were encouraged, challenged and robustly discussed within boundaries set usually by my parents and then thoroughly tested by me and sometimes my sister.
Fun, curiosity, learning, hospitality, adaptability, courage, determination, persistence, solution finding, generosity, decision making, standing up for the vulnerable, being inclusive and reaching out to others became foundational life attributes from my family.
All of this formed in me a deep desire to be someone who does his best to care for people.
My parents had a massively positive influence on the lives of those who interacted with them. Their strong, friendly personalities, honesty and solution-finding actions provided the impetus for them to be involved in life transformation.
They reached out through practical assistance, encouraging words, giving time, humour/ storytelling, listening, and advising – with Mum adding the incalculable dimensions of active Christian faith and prayer.
Long before I heard of the legendary William Booth “Others” telegram story – where he supposedly sent this one-word message to Salvationists around the world – I was fully immersed in the concept of “Others”.
Because of my mother’s teaching I learnt very early on that Jesus has people as his number one priority.
The Bible contains account after account of God reaching out to people at his own expense. He urges us to do the same.
In fact, it’s mandatory for Jesus followers.
Christianity is not about selfishly securing eternal safety just for me or keeping only for myself the exhilarating times of discussion with God, his weight-lifting, freedom-bringing forgiveness and Christ-infused confidence.
Our God stuff is not just for us. It is to be shared. Caring for people by journeying with them, helping them grow and develop their spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical capacities are essential outcomes for Christians.
Can each of us do every part of it? No. Can we play our part in it happening? Yes. Can we be innovative in how we do this? Yes. Will we each do it differently? Yes. Can introverts and extroverts both do this well? Yes. Is our generation too selfish to helpfully interact with other people? No.
It riles me when I hear about whole age generations being labelled by “experts”. I want to de-test many of the supposedly tested generalised statements that have been made.
I think every generation from my Baby Boomer generation on, has been labelled as the “I” or “Me” generation. It has been said that selfishness is at the heart of each of these generations. Really? Rubbish! God made each of us unique.
In every generation there are selfish and unselfish people. So, are our generations more “I” than those that have gone before? No.
Just look back to the Roman Empire, the Greeks and Alexander the Great, the Vikings, and the British who settled Australia, to name a few. They were so focused on themselves that they crushed anyone who went against them. Yet even within those eras there were people who caringly reached out to others.
Like so many people, young and old, I am sold out to doing my bit to help someone move positively forward in their life. I love that The Salvation Army has “Others” badges and T-shirts available and that we quote Catherine Booth: “You are not here in the world for yourself. You have been sent here for others. The world is waiting for you.”
I am overjoyed that there are passionate people making healthy community transforming plans while actively serving Jesus right where they live and work. Salvos and those connected with the Army are joining together in a revolution of Jesus-inspired hope and action that brings practical transformative outcomes for our towns, cities, suburbs, and regions and opens up the way for people to connect with Jesus.
Is every one of us Salvos fully engaged? No. Is there opportunity for us all to be involved in reaching out to others? Yes, because all of us have at least one gift from God to use. Do we have to be doing something difficult or dramatic? No. So, what’s our next step? I don’t know yours, but I know mine.
Lieut-Colonel Laurie Robertson is the Australia Eastern Territory's Secretary for Program.