“Love must be sincere.” Romans 12.9 (NIV)
The word “sincere” means something like “not-pretencious”. This is not an exegetical blog. Instead, I want to share something personal and important from a recent experience.
An elegant elderly lady approached me after my sermon the last night in Toronto. She asked me a most unexpected question, “Did you go to Kowloon Tong Primary School?” I said, “Yes.” She then said, “I remember you. I was your teacher. You were the VP of the class. The president of the class was more heavyset. I always knew you were a bit special.” It’s one of those awkward moments in my life that I was totally left speechless. From a very vast immigrant audience that packed the sanctuary, I get this strange out-of-the-blue comment. Finally, after I came to my senses, I said, “You must be mistaken. I was no VP material at that age.” She said, “No, I’m quite sure you were because your mother used to put her hair up in a bun and wore a bit more traditional Chinese clothing when she walked you to school.” Then, she smiled. I’m sure my teacher was right. Never argue with your teacher! The awkwardness of this moment was heightened by the long line of people waiting to talk to me or to have me sign books they purchased at the conference. I eventually thanked her and she said a blessing to me. Everyone moved along as usual. Whew, that was awkward.
You know what I hate? I hate it when people say to me, “Oh, I remember you when you were a tiny tot. Wow, look at you now.” Most of the time, people just wanted to show me that I’m still a little kid and to show me how successful they’re now in whatever profession they pursue after losing contact with me. Having met people all over the world, I can smell condescension when I encounter it. Luckily, this doesn’t happen often, but since Chinese people move all over the places to places where I speak, this happens more than I care to admit. However, this conversation is different. I have to admit that I choked up slightlyand anyone who knows me knows that I don’t do choking up. She really seemed very sincere and looked genuinely proud of me.
I think we all wanted to please our teacher deep down inside, especially the good ones, ever since we’re little. And to hear that from a former teacher is quite something because I’ve always remember myself as a fun-loving ADHD knucklehead who was often sent home a teacher’s note about how I didn’t pay attention in class. My favorite time was recess when I could play soccer on the school’s sandy pitch or play pranks on my classmates. Those are my childhood memories. She remembered something quite different. What touched me was the way she remembers the things I didn’t, things that really don’t matter now, but still, things that are small details. This teacher cares.
My point is not so much to brag about how special I was because to me, I’m just an ordinary bloke doing a job. The most special part of this experience is see that after all these years, I see a teacher who really cares about her student. She didn’t care by making me get better grades, though my grades weren’t the worst. She cared because she noticed the little things like the way my mother wore her hair or how the president of the class was a more heavyset kid. This is something we can all learn from. Taking the time to care is an important trait for a person of great influence and character. Perhaps, my teacher isn’t as famous as I am in the faith community, but I’m sure, she inadvertently influenced me to be who I am today, and for that, I thank her. Whatever your name is, I thank you for stopping by and sharing your life with me now. You’re a person of great influence and character, perhaps more than you ever know.
Take the time to show some love to someone today. You never know how that will affect the person in the here and now or in the long run.