Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
June 27, 2010
Many of us have a gift for making false
assumptions of others
Some people have a gift for misjudging other people. I admit that
I am guilty. I find it easy to "size up" another person and dismiss
the individual as having little importance. Many times I have been ashamed of
making false assumptions about other people. It is sobering to discover you were wrong.
A friend of mine
confessed that she made this mistake about a pudgy little woman who joined her
church. She said, "When I first saw her I quickly assumed that she would
be good for a bowl of potato salad for one of our church suppers."
"But," she continued, "you can imagine
how stupid I felt when within a year this chubby lady proved to be one of the
most effective Bible teachers in our church!"
I felt a little guilty
as I mulled over my friend’s confession. I remembered my own careless judgments
of others, sometimes based simply on their appearance. This is not an uncommon
sin among those of us who serve the Lord; many of us have 20/20 vision when it
comes to seeing the "speck" in a brother’s eye while overlooking the
"log" in our own eye.
Perhaps like me you have
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 that miserable 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 did 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. She began
taking her lunch into the dark dungeon and eating outside Little Annie’s cage. Maybe,
she thought, her presence could communicate love and hope to the pitiful little
Having hope for Annie
was not easy. Her mistreatment in the past had triggered intense anger in the
girl. Frequently she attacked anyone who came into her cage. At other times she
ignored those who came near her. This was Annie’s 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. Responding to her improvement, the doctors moved
Annie upstairs where she continued to make progress. Finally Annie, once
considered a "hopeless case," was told that she was well and free to
But to everyone’s
surprise Annie told them she did want to leave! Somehow the kindness of the
elderly nurse had inspired Annie to believe that she could help others as the
loving nurse had helped her. Annie stayed and it was she who later loved and
nurtured the amazing Helen Keller out of her own dungeon.
adversity. She had lost the majority of her sight by the time she was five. By
age 10 her mother had died and her father had deserted her. She and her brother
Jimmie were sent to the poorhouse. Her brother died there. Later Annie had two
operations on her eyes, regaining enough sight to be able read normal print for
brief periods of time.
Helen Keller, deaf,
blind, and mute, described her deliverance by saying, “I was helplessly adrift
when someone took my hand, someone who would not only teach me all things, but
someone who would love me.” That someone was Annie, known to the world as Anne
Sullivan, the woman who devoted her life to helping Helen Keller become a
beautiful, useful person.
Had I seen Annie in that
dungeon, and witnessed her violence as a little girl, I would have assumed as
the doctors did that she was hopeless. And I would have been wrong.
When I am tempted to
make snap judgments about someone, it helps me to remember Annie. Sometimes I
succeed in not misjudging a person I know very little about. I know I need to
give up this gift of making false assumptions about people. At least my
mistakes have taught me that everyone I meet has potential that is hidden from
my eyes. And assumptions rarely help anyone. + + +