Thinking of others


The interests of others


Written by ANDRÉE SEU

September 1, 2011, 9:30 AM

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests but to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).

I was in the visiting area of the prison, feeling pretty proud of myself for being on top of things this time. I had the right ID, I had the right shoes, the right shirt, the right denominations of paper money to put a deposit down for a locker key (the attendant won’t break a larger bill), a 20-dollar bill for the food card machine, and two ones for the photo ticket machine.

But while I was waiting for the CO to call my inmate’s name, I noticed a woman there who evidently didn’t have all her ducks in a row. Her clothes looked regulation enough, but I saw her attempting to haggle with the man behind the thick glass window at the locker key office and realized she had committed the unpardonable sin of not having her $5.

That’s when I realized I had not done as well as I thought I had. In my preparation for the trip to Graterford I had anticipated and actively planned for my own needs with impeccable foresight—but that’s as far as I had gone. I had not gone the last step of anticipating someone else’s needs, including the very likely possibility that there would be at least one first-timer in the visiting room looking like a deer in the headlights.

Someone might say it is no sin to not have thought along those lines. But I think God means our love to stretch and grow and to become habituated to thinking about other people. In the world, people take care of themselves, and the attitude of “I’ve got mine” is the law of the land, but Christians are not “merely human” (1 Corinthians 3:4).

I am asking God’s Spirit to develop me in the area of anticipating other people’s needs better than I do now. There is a light-year’s difference between remembering all my stuff and remembering your stuff besides my own. The simple act of packing an extra five-dollar bill—or perhaps a sweater for the woman whose visit is canceled because of her sleeveless shirt—is good practice for growing into the new creation God wants me to be.