You’re Not Important



Photo Credit: Creative Commons, Brad Montgomery

Michael and I bought our first house in our favorite part of town. This summer has been a flurry of unpacking boxes, scouring flea markets and dusty antique shops, refinishing old furniture, and sitting on our front porch dreaming—sometimes about our writing, but mostly about tiny footsteps in our house.

The other day, my heels clinked across the wood floor as I gathered my things for an after-work event, ear pressed to the phone. I was catching up with a dear friend after we’d missed each other’s calls for what felt like four months.  She was in the middle of telling me about her new job, when I heard a knock at the door. I asked her to hang on a second and opened the door expecting to find a neighbor or my friend Nikki.

Instead, it was a woman holding her daughter’s hand—both disheveled, both looking like they wanted something from me. The mother asked if she could have a few minutes of my time to ask me a question. And do you know what I said?

“I’m so sorry, this isn’t a good time. I’m on the phone.” I smiled, they smiled, and I closed the door behind me.

I continued my conversation with my friend, a pit growing steadily in my stomach. I flew out the door to hear Michael speak and picked up dinner and an iced coffee on the way.

It wasn’t until I drove home later that night, that I approved introspection. I thought about that mother and her daughter and had a lot of excuses about dismissing them and locking my door. But eventually, I conceded to the fact that with my actions I told them: “You are not important.”

“Because you aren’t someone I know, because you look different from me and wear dirty clothes—when you knock on my door, you aren’t important to me.”

If my boss came to the door, I would have ended my phone call.

If a friend came to the door, I would have invited her in.

If a neighbor came to the door, I would not have been too busy.

I’ve really wrestled with my behavior that afternoon, because I think it gave me a window into the shadowy places in my life. We all have them don’t we? Places of inconsistencies that stay tucked away while we display a brighter, nobler sometimes kinder side.

I came to the realization that I can write books and blog posts, move across the world to China, and counsel young women stuck in depression—but none of that matters if I’m only loving when it’s convenient or only when people are watching.

Throughout Jesus’ life, the religious leaders criticized him because of his associations—the poor, the cheaters, the adulterers, the ones with demons, the prostitutes. The dinner guests at Jesus’ table were exactly the people society deemed lesser.

As Christians, the world is supposed to be able to pick us out in a crowd by our love. Not just our love for our friends, but our love  for those we don’t call friends or neighbors.

But we can’t hoard our love only for those deemed worthy. We can’t love simply love when it’s convenient and when the people look like us and dress like us.  It’s easy to pursue the big flashy ways to love people—feed the homeless, move across the world, volunteer on a Saturday—and neglect the mother and daughter standing on our doorstep, isn’t it? Because no one had to know how I failed to love that summer afternoon.

But I’ll always know.

I kept hoping the mother and daughter would give me another chance to invite them in and listen to their story. But they never did return. I probably won’t have a second chance with them, but I do have an opportunity every day to show love to those around me. And for that, I am grateful.

Who is ‘important’ to you? Who doesn’t fall in that category? Have you ever been ashamed of how you judged and treated someone? 

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5 Responses to “You’re Not Important”
  1. Greg says:

    I still regret my failure to show compassion during a visit to a nursing home with my uncle years ago. While we sang hymns to the residents to try and encourage them, I noticed one of the elderly ladies had a look of fear and loneliness in her eyes that I will never forget. It hurt just to make that connection with her eyes, and I knew I should have sat next to her and held her hand (if nothing else), but I selfishly didn’t want to hurt *with* her–thinking only of my own comfort.

    I would give anything to go back in time and make that right. A simple touch that says “I care about your pain” can mean a great deal to someone–especially the elderly.

  2. Christy says:

    A very convicting post, Ruthie! Thank you for sharing – this is a great reminder and challenge for me in my personal life too!

  3. Marsha says:

    Hey there…I love your blog..both of to hear how men really think about what we do, what God wants us to do in relationships and such…for this post I think you shouldn’t have opened the door for any reason until you knew the person…even those that have a badge or business card from service company. Many scams are done this way with the bait of the disheveled person then they get your info, or someone is behind the bushes that will walk into the home when you are out in the yard…etc..just saying…love your blog as you both give us the details…

  4. Danelle says:

    Were u talking to Chelsey Smith? :) I have had opportunities like that recently and I have squandered them. Thanks for the reminder that we should represent Christ at all times. It’s usually those divine interruptions that are just that…divine…when He tries to slow us down and get a glimpse of Him.

  5. Jay says:

    Bwoy, I am just SO often hearing and feeling the message that IM not important. I still do my best to give to others of my time, frienndship, talents etc and help the needy but I feel like the world is a horrible place that just takes and takes!

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