I chanced upon this prayer on my Facebook feed - yes, you can find all sorts on Facebook. The prayer writer remains unknown, but his/her words spoke to me, as I believe they will speak to you. I then took upon myself the liberty of reflecting on these words with you - especially during this exciting time of stewardship, where each is encouraged to pledge in support of our common life.
The prayer is comprised of four parts: eyes to see the best, a heart that forgives the worst, a mind that forgets the bad, and a soul that never loses hope. For the next four weeks, I will reflect on each part of the prayer.
I begin with eyes that see the best. The challenges we experience in our own lives often become blinders - to the point where we only see the negative, the worst in others, in ourselves, and even in our communities.
One of the important lessons that I learned as a kid who had the unique opportunity to read his report card from elementary school was to grow accustomed to the thoughts of the teacher whose duty it was to write a comment on the report card. This is what the teachers often wrote: “There’s room for improvement.”
I really didn’t know at the time what that meant but I figured out over time that it was a tacit acknowledgment of the potential that abounds in me - "Nothing can stop me from growing," I can hear them say. I'm sure that every little kid who also read similar comments felt the same way as I did - that there’s a huge potential that awaits, but only if you have eyes to see the best in you and the potential that abounds in you.
Eyes, we may have. See, we may see. But do we see the best?
I believe that those teachers could’ve written something that sort of diminished students, but of what good would that have been?
To see the best in others and in situations is not to ignore the worse; rather, it is to affirm that in spite of all else, even the worst, there’s this spark in a person, a situation, an organization, or even within a community that, if acknowledged and nurtured, has the potential to yield significant rewards.
This past week, we launched our Stewardship Campaign for 2023. It is a very exciting time for Christ Church. Last year, we counted about one hundred and eighty (180) pledging units that collectively raised about four hundred and eighty-three thousand ($483,000.00). Our hope this year is to increase our pledging units to two hundred and to raise five hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars ($525,000.00) to fully support our common life. This is a steep goal, but it can only be achieved if parishioners like you and I, with our eyes open, can see the best that is possible within our community.
When I was serving in Philadelphia a few years ago, a parishioner had come to church one day but left before the service was over. They then returned back to church another day with some news. The preacher at the initial service had spoken about his ministry to the homeless and the incredible gift of that ministry. As challenging as the life of a homeless person was, he always saw in them a means by which he could connect with God through service. He always saw the best that he could offer to neighbors. He always saw, in those who are homeless, an enriching experience that spoke to tenderness and grace.
This parishioner heard this preacher and returned back to church, encountering a homeless man on Germantown Avenue on his way to grab brunch with his wife. But this time, instead of simply walking by the homeless man who had asked for money to buy food, he gave the man some. He would later say that the sermon he heard that day was so moving that he simply couldn’t pass by the homeless man without acting. He saw the best in that man; more than that, he saw the best in himself.
Can you see the best in yourself? Can you see the best in others? Can you see the best in your partner, or in your relationships? Can you see the best in your colleagues, and in your neighbors? Can you see the best within this community at Christ Church? Can you see the best within the broader society? I am sure you can. In fact, there is no doubt in my mind that you can.
And so, I'd like to encourage you, on this day and every day, to always endeavor to see the best in yourself, in others, and in all situations.