The other day I was racing to leave my neighborhood for an appointment when I encountered a long line of cars in front of me due to a repaving project. We were all ‘held hostage’ by a construction worker with a stop sign controlling the flow of cars driving in and out of the neighborhood. I was in a hurry, and my frustration level began to mount as the wait time increased. Finally, the STOP sign was switched to a SLOW sign and I was able to move, and as I drove past the sign, my irritation melted away as I saw the sign holder’s radiant smile as she took off her hat, graciously bowed, and gave me a ‘Miss America’ wave as she warmly signaled for me to drive on. She exuded joy that was contagious! I opened my window, and said to her, “You must know and love Jesus!” In response, she enthusiastically responded, “I sure do, and I have ever since I was a little girl!” I later learned that her name is Sharon--known by some as ‘Sharon the Fabulous Flagger’-and that I was not the only one who took notice of her exuberant demeanor.
The following was posted in my town’s neighborhood Facebook page:
“There was a wonderfully cheerful lady directing traffic around the road work on Hickory Drive earlier this afternoon. Are you in this group? I just wanted to say THANK YOU for doing your job with such flair. Your joy is absolutely contagious!!”
And another person wrote:
“You want to get mad for having to sit there but then you get up to her and all you can do is smile and wave. Everyone should love their job like she does. She told me she has to deal with very impatient people and she soon realized that her friendly attitude could defuse aggression. She’s a gem!”
Sharon’s life shines forth like a light and is so God glorifying!
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16 ESV
Her joy in performing her menial job—especially in the extreme heat and humidity of ‘Hotlanta’—caused me to consider the following:
When others see me-- whether at work, at home, or out and about-- what is their impression? Do they see someone whose words, actions, and overall countenance testifies to the fact that I have chosen to follow Jesus and to serve as an ‘ambassador’ of His loving kindness? Does the way I do the ordinary things in life express joy in living, as well as concern for others, or do I communicate that I am merely in ‘survival mode’, self-focused, and unconcerned about those around me?
What about your life? What kind of an ambassador are you for Christ? Are you a contagious Christian that attracts others to you and makes them wonder what is the source of your joy? Do the words and the tone you use with your family communicate irritation with or love for them? What about at work? Are you more of a ‘Suzy Sunshine’ who arrives with a smile that no amount of frustration can wipe away, or are you more of a ‘Debbie Downer’ who complains as if that’s your job? When you are grocery or mall shopping, do you smile at other customers? Let others in a hurry go ahead of you? Do you engage the cashier in conversation and thank her for doing her job? Do you stop to visit with neighbors while out walking or jogging? Do you make a point to welcome new neighbors and to invest time in getting to know 'old' neighbors?
Do you think that you accurately represent Christ’s love to the people with whom you interact on a daily basis, whatever it is you are doing? Do you think Jesus would agree with your assessment?
Below are just a few ways in which you can represent the love of Christ on a daily basis as you go about your life:
1. SMILE! It’s amazing the difference a smile alone can make, especially when you look someone in the eye. By doing so you acknowledge that they are worthy of you taking notice of them. You may have heard of the testimonies of people who were contemplating suicide who decided against doing so because someone cared enough to just smile at them. Plus, wearing a smile will continue to fill your ‘joy cup’ because giving a smile almost always leads to receiving a smile! (To be clear: I am not talking about a sexy, flirtatious smile, but a warm and friendly smile that acknowledges that the other person is made in the image of God and therefore worthy to be noticed and their presence dignified by gracing them with a smile.)
2. Say something kind and affirming to others. When I am out and about and see someone who is kind and outgoing, I will often tell her that her smile or joyful countenance blesses me. Many times I will follow that statement-- as I did with Sharon—with the comment, “You must know Jesus!” or something to that effect. Most times they say, ”I sure do!” and the faith of both of us is built up as we identify one another in the marketplace. But what if they don’t know Him? Then it gives you a great opportunity to say, “Oh, I encourage you to get to know Him as He is the most wonderful person in the world and will change your life!”
3. Do not be easily irritated, but instead look to alleviate the irritation of others. I remember going to a grocery store on my birthday when I was in college and the cashier was nasty to me. My initial thought was, “It’s my birthday and I sure don’t deserve to be treated that way!” and I took offense by her attitude. Then it occurred to me that I didn’t know what that person was going through that might have led them to act so unkindly; perhaps they had just found out some bad news or it was the anniversary of the death of a loved one, or maybe someone in line had just treated them poorly. I resolved that I would always seek to treat others as if it were a special day in their life, for every day is indeed special! The Lord makes each and every day, so we are to rejoice and be glad! (Psalm 118:24)
4. Show appreciation to others who serve you and look for ways to serve others. Jesus came to serve, not to be served (Matthew 20:28) We have the opportunity to represent Jesus’ heart of love to those who provide services to us, like our mailman/woman and sanitation workers by verbally thanking them and performing acts of kindness toward them. I remember watching a wonderful video of a family whose young kids would give something cold to drink or give a snack to the sanitation workers when they came by; a beautiful friendship developed between that family and those workers. Notes of appreciation and other acts of kindness can let them know you value them. Look for ways in which you can serve those who serve you.
5. Pray for others! When you encounter people who appear from their sullen face or unkind actions to be experiencing a rough day, speak words of kindness to them if possible, knowing that a kind word turns away wrath, and always pray for them! (Proverbs 15:1; Luke 6:28) Pray that they will come to know the love that Jesus has for them and that they will be filled with His loving kindness and joy!
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
Lord, let my life so shine forth before others so that all who see me will see your life at work in me and Your life reflected through me! Amen!
Written by Julie Van Gorp