Pop quiz: Can you remember the name of the security guard at the place you worked at fifteen years ago? How about at where you work now? How about the name of the cleaning person?
Strange questions, right? Well, not really. As Christians, especially if we are ministers of the gospel, we are supposedly interested in all people. Too often though, we are only interested in the “-ful” people—beautiful, successful, powerful… If we are honest, we don’t often fare any better than Samuel did when he went looking for Saul’s replacement (1 Samuel 16). The Lord still has to remind us that “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
I worked in computer support for twenty years before leaving it last summer to answer the call to pastoral ministry. One thing I learned early on was to get to know the four key people in any office: The receptionist, the security guard, the cleaning crew and the secretaries—the very people whom most of my coworkers over the years never paid attention to. Take Bob for example.
Despite his contagious, wide smile and grandfatherly gentleness, most of the people in the company I worked for back in the mid-1990s totally disregarded Bob. To them he was just some old guy night watchmen–the retiree rent-a-cop–who came on shift as we were all heading home for the day.
He was fifty years older than me, but we became office buddies. Every day I talked to Bob on my way out, sometimes for almost an hour. He was a great guy with a fast wit. We would shake our heads in disbelief when he would say goodnight to someone heading out the door and they would not even acknowledge him! It was as if he was invisible and to them he was. Now really, is that any way to treat a retired Secret Service agent who guarded four different presidents and had the 8×10 glossies to prove it? Of course, they never took the time to learn that about Bob…
Bob was certainly an exception, but he is still a good reminder of what (or who) we can miss when we treat “the least” the same way everyone else treats them. And what about opportunities for the gospel? Just tonight I was able to give a gospel tract to one of the catering staff at a function. These are the people who usually only get attention when the hors d’oeuvres tray is empty. Believe me, I don’t say this to boast—I miss more opportunities than I take—but the point is the same: Look for those people everyone else over looks and then get to know them!