No One Noticed
By DANNY MINTON
It was October 7, 1871, and the people in the city that lay quietly near Lake Michigan went about their daily routine. The streets were full of shoppers, farmers had come to town to sell their goods, and tradesmen were actively busy making money.
However, the next day, October 8, 1871, would be different. Fire has a way of changing things. How the fire started is not precisely known, but it started on some farm outside of town, turning into a large forest fire. North winds blew in, fanning the flames that quickly spread over the dry land and town that had been in a prolonged drought. When it was over, between 1,500 to 2,500 people died, and thousands were homeless. Millions of dollars of damage covered over one million acres of land swept over by a hot firestorm that would turn sand into glass. It was a devastating fire, taking more lives than any fire had taken in known history.
It wasn’t Mrs. O’Leary’s cow that kicked over a lantern that caused it. You see, that was another fire that happened on the same day in a city south named Chicago. That fire killed 300 people and left thousands homeless. But Chicago was a more important well-known city, so it received more publicity in the press around the country. But on that day in October 1871, 250 miles north of Chicago, Peshtigo, Wisconsin, was facing the most deadly wildfire in American history, and no one seemed to notice.
No matter where you are, human nature always seems to step in, and the more popular, the more famous or well-known get the headlines and accolades. A million-dollar gift to charity from a billionaire gets the news media salivating. However, the ten-dollar gift made by someone making minimum wage and scraping by paycheck to paycheck doesn’t turn a head. It’s part of life that the more popular and interesting people get the attention. Let’s face it, that’s the way it’s always been, and I doubt it will ever change in the world we live in today or tomorrow.
Unfortunately, that carries over in many ways to the church. Your preacher gives a good sermon, and people come up and shake their hand and gloat over how good of a job they did. You teach a class, and people tell your friends how great a teacher you are. As leaders, people come up, put an arm around your shoulder and build you up with words of sincere encouragement. Admit it; it does feel good to be appreciated and doted on by others.
As I think about it, for every one of the “visible,” five or ten go about doing their service to the church without ever having someone put their hand on their shoulder and tell them how much they are appreciated. They are those who lock and unlock the doors, put the paper towels in the restrooms, welcome people as they come in the door, bake the communion bread, type up the words for the songs on the screen or make the coffee for class.
Then there are those who take meals to the sick, visit the shut-ins and hospitals or write notes of encouragement to others. These people serve not for pay or because of status but because of their love for the Lord and desire to be like him.
Of course, they don’t do things to be seen by men, but everyone needs a little encouragement, no matter what task they perform. The greatest encouragement can come from those they look up to in the church, usually a minister or elder.
One of the most significant powers that we have is our eyesight; it’s how we use it that makes it powerful or not. When it comes to those hurting, the “well known” usually have abundant support surrounding them, while those on the edge have only a few. We must pay attention to those on the edge, keeping in mind that their needs, hurts, and wants are just as real as those who get most of the attention. We can be like the Disciples, who viewed a beggar, daily ignored by the crowds as a sinner, or learn from the Savior who saw a man, ignored by many, in need. He saw a hungry crowd, felt the touch of a lowly woman in the mass of followers, and grasped the hand of a man with leprosy.
We all have talents, abilities, and needs, which are all important and affect the congregation’s lives. Take a little time the next time you walk through your church building and encourage someone who quietly does their service out of love or has a tear in their eye from an aching heart. I know that’s what Jesus would do if he walked in the door.
“As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘Truly, I tell you,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in all she had to live on.'” Luke 21:1-4
Danny Minton is an Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ