She was a middle-aged woman, approaching us while we were cleaning up after our breakfast in a local park in Morro Bay, CA. Her greeting, however, caught us by surprise.
When she asked us that question I didn’t quite know how to respond. At first I kind of bristled at the expression, “you kids.” Usually that’s the kind of terminology that is spoken by a younger person to an obviously much older person, and sometimes it’s said in a condescending manner that can set your teeth on edge. “You kids!” Here was a lady that was probably not much older than my own children and she’s calling us “kids.” On the other hand. . . I often act like a kid. . . so what’s wrong with that?
But, then she added, “Are you OK?” with the implication that we weren’t OK at all. When I did respond, I responded with a small chuckle and said, “Yes! Why wouldn’t we be OK?” Her answer startled me as she said, “Well, you’re eating breakfast here in the park. . ..” And she also added, “This is a “children’s park. . ..” Well, in reality there was some playground equipment there, but there were also some tennis courts with some adults playing tennis even as we spoke. We checked the park sign later and didn’t find anything that said the park was reserved only for children or that only children could use the picnic table we were using (It was the only picnic table, I might add. It was not a very large park).
After a few moments of conversation back and forth, we did let her know that we were traveling and that we often prepared and ate our breakfasts in local parks and have enjoyed doing so. But it was more than a little obvious that she wanted us to know that we shouldn’t plan on an extended stay at that park, which we had no intention of doing anyway. But as I reflected on the encounter it seemed to me that here was an illustration of what happens when someone jumps to a conclusion without having all the facts. She assumed that we were more than likely homeless: perhaps we had some event happen that pushed us out of our home and were really “down on our luck” to lower ourselves to eating breakfast in a park. She may also have assumed that we were there because we didn’t have enough money to buy our breakfast at a restaurant while we were traveling and it looked like we might try to establish some kind of “shelter” there in the park.
Those of you who are reading this know that we are not homeless, we are not “down on our luck,” and we are simply traveling the country visiting relatives, seeing God’s great creation, and meeting new and interesting people along the way. But it caused me to wonder how often I have made judgments about other people without knowing all the facts. When a person that’s not dressed very well would come into my office during the week, I would often find myself thinking as they walked up the sidewalk, “I wonder how much these folks may need today.” Many times that was exactly what would happen. But sometimes, it was simply a person who was new to the area or who was traveling and wanted to know something about the church and the ministry of the church. In such cases I was chastised by the Spirit of God because of the quick judgment I had made.
Bonnie and I have had the opportunity to worship in several types of churches that are different than what we have been used to for the last 65 plus years. And we have discovered many folks who love the Lord Jesus Christ with all their heart, soul, and mind. They have been people who were “OK” in their relationship with Jesus and when we learned more about them, we could see their heart for the Lord. Outwardly they may not have conformed to “our” standards. Their worship styles and often their dress were quite a bit different than ours. But their love for Jesus was obvious. And their passion to reach the lost was unquestionable. Their acceptance of the lost extended out to their friendship with those who needed Jesus as Lord in their lives. And they were living a life of witness before those who needed the new birth He offers.
Yes, God spoke to me through the lady who said to us, “Are you kids OK?” I want to see others as Jesus sees them. And as Jesus interacted with sinners with uncompromising truth and love, the sinners came to repentance. I believe God would see His true church grow stronger and larger if His people would live each day seeing others as Jesus sees them, and would have a heart eager to share the love of our Lord without reservation.
So, instead of coming upon someone having breakfast in the local park and asking them if they’re OK, why not stop and say, “You folks look like you’re on an adventure. What a great idea to enjoy God’s creation as you have your breakfast. I’d be interested to hear your story!”