Altar Call -- Opelika-Auburn News
Walter Albritton
January 21, 2001

Never discount the hidden potential of any person you meet

A foible common to us all is the tendency to misjudge other people. We can so easily "size up" another person and dismiss the individual as having little importance in the scheme of things. Such assumptions prompt us to walk on our way, paying little or no attention to these "insignificant" persons.

One friend of mine confessed having made this mistake in judgment about a pudgy little woman who joined her church. She said, "It occurred to me as I looked her over that she would be good for a bowl of potato salad for one of our church suppers." "But," she said, "you can imagine how stupid I felt when within a year this chubby woman had become one of the most effective and beloved Bible teachers in our church!"

I felt a bit guilty as she shared her confession for more than once I too have made such careless judgments of others, sometimes based mostly on their appearance. It is not an uncommon thing among us who serve the Lord, for we too can see the "speck" in a brother’s eye while overlooking the "log" in our own eye.

Somewhere I read the story of a little girl who, years ago, had been locked in the dungeon of a mental institution near Boston. Only those who were hopelessly insane were consigned to the dungeon. The doctors has no hope for the girl they called "Little Annie," so she was forced to endure a living hell in a small cage with little light or hope.

But the story does not end in that dungeon. An elderly nurse, nearing retirement, came on the scene. She was one of those unusual persons who had hope for every child. So she began taking her lunch into the dark dungeon and eating outside Little Annie’s cage. Her desire was to communicate love and hope to this pitiful little girl. It was not easy to have hope for the girl. Her mistreatment in the past had turned her into a violent animal. She would attack anyone who came into her cage. Or sometimes she would ignore those who came near her. This was her initial reaction to the elderly nurse; she paid her no attention at all.

One day the nurse left some brownies outside Annie’s cage. Annie ignored them while the nurse was present but when she returned the next day, the brownies were gone. After that every Thursday the nurse brought brownies to Annie. Soon the doctors observed a change taking place in Annie. In response to her improvement, the doctors decided to move Annie upstairs, where she continued to make progress. Finally the day came when this "hopeless case" was free to leave and return home.

But Little Annie decided not to leave. Somehow the kindness of the elderly nurse had inspired Annie to believe that she could help others as this loving nurse had helped her. Little Annie stayed and was she who later loved and nurtured Helen Keller to emerge from her own imprisonment and become such a wonderful person. You see, Little Annie’s name was Anne Sullivan. Think about Little Annie the next time you are tempted to make a snap judgment of another person. It is wise never to discount the hidden potential of anyone we meet.