“Everyone Matters” is a global campaign to promote “compassion, self-acceptance, acceptance of others, and empowerment” for people everywhere. Their goal is noble. And the concept is definitely Biblical.
On their facebook page I came across the story of Emelie Crecco. This incident happened to her three years ago. The perky, pretty young 20 year old wheeled into a handicap space in a shopping centered parking lot. Jumped out of her car. And headed to the store.
When she returned she found this note.
“Shame on you, you are NOT handicapped. You have taken a space that could have been used by an actually handicapped person. You are a selfish young lady.”
“I was LIVID,” said Emelie. Why? Because she has cystic fibrosis. She posted the story with this explanation and observations.
“CF affects the lungs (as one of many organs in the body). Because of this I have a handicapped sticker. I’m not one to “abuse” the sticker, meaning I use it when I’m having a “bad day” (some days it’s a little harder to breathe). Today was HOT so I needed to use my sticker. I was running errands all day around my town; I pulled into a handicapped spot and continued into the store.” When she returned she found the note. Then Emelie says, “They clearly saw me walk out of my car, why not approach me? Not all handicaps are visible.”
Then she adds, “I would love for you to share this story. It would help spread awareness for CF, (and) it would help open people’s minds to what handicapped really is.”
I don’t know Emelie. But I hope she doesn’t mind if I make another point in addition to increasing awareness of unseen handicaps like CF.
It’s the problem we humans have of incorrectly judging someone’s appearance. Motives. Or problems.
Jesus warns us, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (Jn 7:24) While it is perfectly proper to make judgments based on truth, righteousness and scripture, judgments based on conjuncture are both improper and wrong!
Snap judgments based on appearance and circumstantial evidence can lead to false conclusions. The Bible tells about a time when the apostle Paul was on the voyage to Rome and a Typhon shipwrecked their vessel on the island of Malta. While building a fire, Paul picked up some wood and a snake fastened itself on his hand. The natives saw it and said, “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live.”
However, Paul shook the serpent loose and he never suffered any ill effects. Not even any swelling. The people saw it and were amazed. Then they changed their minds and decided Paul was a god! (Acts 28:1-6). However, both opinions were wrong!
Be careful of drawing conclusions about others based on your limited knowledge. A person’s appearance. Their facial expression. Their clothes. A tattoo. Their skin color. Their ancestry. Or their mood on a given occasion. “We take it for granted we know the whole story,” once said the singer Axl Rose. “We judge a book by its cover and read what we want between selected lines.” Or as the ancient philosopher Euripides put it, “Judge a tree from its fruit, not from its leaves.”
The next time you’re ready to judge based on appearance remember Emelie Crecco. And if you’re in Putnam Valley and see Emelie parking in a handicapped spot, smile and say “Hi.” She’s probably having a rough day. And she could use your encouragement.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman