Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor? James 4:11-12 (NIV)
It’s a good thing my toe is better because I spent the entire day on my feet. A representative of a high level government agency visited our historical parks and museums today. Though I met her at a meeting several months ago, we waited a while until her schedule could be cleared for an entire day. I sent an agenda in advance to be approved through her assistant and mapped out the day and route in detail. We met at one of our historical sites this morning at 9:00 and from there toured almost two dozen historic buildings in seven hours. I know her head was swimming by the end of the day if not from the heat, from information overload. My staff did a great job preparing for her visit. They gathered facts and stories relating the importance of our work as well as gentle suggestions about how her agency might help us. I was nervous about the day, not only because I was to be her chauffer, but because I expected her to be stiff and formal. There are some women that I have encountered in my career who try so hard to be all business. They are only concerned about the task at hand, the work and the to do list, to the exclusion of getting to know the people who carry out the duties and details. I was pleasantly surprised to find her friendly and interested not just in our work, but in our people. She swapped parent stories with our staff, exchanging ideas for motivating young adults to excel with those whose children are ready to leave the nest and how to choose a good school and activities for those with younger children still at home. She cried when one woman told of the heartbreak of losing a child to cancer, laughed over the antics of a preteen boy, and listened carefully to the saga of a family’s trip to China to adopt their baby girl. With the fisherman in Cortez, she talked knowingly of boats and engines, shared fish tales and commiserated over the hardships caused by government regulation. She grew emotional seeing a restored Cuban refugee boat. “What they went through for freedom!” she exclaimed. As we left the last site, I said, “You act like every person you meet is important.” “Well, they are!” she replied. “Everyone has a story to tell. It is my job to listen.” How refreshing to hear in a day and age when politicians have a reputation for forgetting the people who they serve! At the end of the day, I felt sad as we said good bye. If we lived closer, I imagine we could have been friends. She is the kind of woman you could meet for coffee, serve alongside in the PTA and call in an emergency to pick your kids up from school. That will teach me to judge someone before I meet them. It also gives me hope for our country’s future.