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 girl.
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 leave.
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.
Annie understood 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. + + +