“Not a ‘Ditto'”
Do you ever find yourself with the opportunity to spend some time people-watching? After sitting for a while, do you find yourself wondering, “Who really is this person I’m looking at? What do they like? What concerns them? What are their complexities, etc.?” How easy it is to go through life and not think about others outside of how they relate to ourselves! Martin Buber theorized that we relate to people as either “I/it” (ex. relating to a homeless person), “I/you” (only determining social position or considering others human only in sense that they relate to you), or “I/thou” (existing apart from you with unique worries, gifts, abilities, etc.). How would ministry change if we thought more about who people really are?
Consider Tom Crean. Many are calling for his replacement as IU Men’s Basketball Head Coach, but regardless of his coaching skills, what manner of person is he? One day, he was witnessed jogging with an assistant coach; people stopped them several times along their way and the assistant coach became irritated (not without some reason), but Crean was very gracious to everyone. This same gracious manner of relating was observed at a basketball game, where it even annoyed the observer how often people stopped Crean. Crean was “beyond polite” and impressed the observer with the amount of time he and his wife gave to others and how they treated others in this situation. Would others see us that way, as a “thou” rather than an “it” or a “you?”
In Luke 8, the woman who wipes Jesus’ feet with her tears and her hair is overwhelmed by his grace. It was inappropriate for a woman to let down her hair in that situation, but it didn’t stop her from her expression of gratitude. Simon thinks Jesus doesn’t really know her, but it is Simon who doesn’t “see” her completely or even recognize his own sinfulness. Jesus does see her, and the woman sees him. How often we are blind to ourselves and to the other person? Eugene Peterson says, “There are no ‘dittos’ among souls.”