You know, I work with teenagers. Don’t have any of my own yet (though the day is fast approaching and it scares me a lot!), but I like to think that I know how to talk to them at least a little bit. Which is why it’s funny to me to think how shaky I can get talking to ones I don’t know – especially when I’m having to get after them.
Case in point this afternoon – there is a group of 4 guys on the edge my work property right now, who actually look like pretty accomplished skateboarders. However, 15 minutes ago they chose to collapse one of our picnic tables and set it up as a ramp. That irked me just a bit. Thankfully I had a long walk from my office to where they were to figure out what I was going to say.
I decided to go the calm route. More flies with honey, right? I told these guys (well, the 3 that were left after one took off seeing me coming) that I didn’t mind if they hung out, but using the tables the way they were wasn’t cool, and while I figure they’re good at what they do, I didn’t want them hurt. And then I held my breath for a second.
I mean, I don’t know these kids from Adam. And while the teens I work with are a great bunch of kids, I know that not all teenagers are. Would they cuss me out? Ignore me? Threaten?
What I got was a clear look right into my eyes, and then a “yeah, hey, that’s respectable” – and then they put it all back. Without my asking, they voluntarily put the table not only back the way it was, but back where it belonged, too.
I realized that often when we treat people like the human beings and created masterpieces that God made them to be, we discover they are, in fact, precisely that. Because I was respectful to them, not demanding or scared or angry, they were respectful back. Because I could see in them the person that God sees – at least a little glimpse – I could treat them the way He does. They may hide that canvas under tattoos and strategically torn jeans and a don’t-care attitude – but I think I got a little peek at the masterpiece underneath.