How do you determine the value of a person?
It’s a forensic economist’s job to assign an exact dollar amount to a person’s life. Whew! Sounds pretty cold, right? Someone just slaps a price tag on you and says “eh, that’s what he was worth.”
Do you know what price they would assign to me? Well, I’m not afraid to tell you that I’m 41 years old and a woman. Oh- and an aspiring author. Let’s just add that up here... let's see... okay, that comes to about a buck-fifty.
We do the same thing every day. We assign value to people based on unspoken rules we’ve created. Those rules are formed from our culture, people who influence us, and our personal experiences.
So which people do you consider to be more valuable than others? A doctor or a garbage collector? A college graduate or a high school drop-out? Nelson Mandela or your favorite grade school teacher?
We use those same rules to determine our own value as well.
At an early age, the worst thing I could imagine being when I grew up was unremarkable. I did everything I could think to do as a child to make something of myself- to be important. To me, that looked like becoming a top executive in International Business. I got my first job as a dishwasher in a restaurant when I was 14. I started college at 16. I worked and toiled and clawed my way upward until finally at the age of 25, I owned an insurance agency.
Business was good and although I had gone a bit off course, I was still pretty proud of my accomplishments. That is until my health began to fail. Before I knew it, I barely had the energy to manage existing accounts, let alone grow new business. I stopped going into the office and did my best to work from home. But eventually, I lost my business.
I lost the very thing that I thought made me valuable.
I believed that my career determined my identity and my worth. I didn’t magically come up with this belief as a child. I inherited that belief from a society that told me that if I want to be important, I would have a good degree and a high-paying, prestigious job.
Having a chronic illness meant that I had to make caring for my health my full-time job.
I’d meet new people and the first question they’d ask me was, “what do you do for a living?”
When I couldn’t respond with a job title, all of a sudden, some people just couldn’t relate to me. They couldn’t think of any questions to ask me or anything to talk about and made the first excuse they could, to go talk to someone else.
I’ll admit, I have the same difficulty as many do because I know how to ask great questions about jobs but I’m not as good at asking questions about people. But I’m practicing because I’ve learned that each of us has so much more to offer than just what we do for a living.
I think we’d grasp how interesting people really are if we learned to ask better questions.
Questions like, what gives you the greatest sense of fulfillment? Or tell me about a time when you overcame something that seemed impossible.
We were all created with a remarkable identity.
What is remarkable? I used to think that meant having wealth and status but when I was striving for those things, I wasn’t exactly a nice person.
Each of us is remarkable because our true identity is a son or daughter of the God who created immense galaxies and minuscule atoms- the God who is love. When we live in our true identity, we’re able to see just how valuable others are too.
We are all inherently and equally valuable because we have been created in the image of God.
Genesis 1:26-27 (ESV) Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
If you've ever wondered what God looks like, look at all of the shapes, colors, and genders of every face in the world, and you'll see the likeness of God. How amazing is that?
This is what I think is remarkable. When my husband and I were visiting Glasgow, Scotland, we noticed that people would stop when they came across a homeless person. This alone seemed peculiar because, in our culture, it's more common to avert our eyes and pretend we don't see them. But they did more than that. They'd sit down on the sidewalk beside them and engage in a full conversation. They didn't see "homeless," they saw "people." They treated them with the same dignity and respect as any other person.
Kindness is remarkable. Compassion is remarkable. Gentleness, patience, love. It is remarkable to be these things to the people around us, and not just to those we love, but everybody.
When we treat others this way, we inspire those same qualities within them. I know, sometimes it’s pretty hard to see goodness in certain people. That’s because life is hard and we tend to deal with it by covering up those good qualities with what we think will protect us from pain: anger, bitterness, and fear. But the good is still in there; sometimes it’s just hidden underneath layers of mud and muck.
Here’s something else that I think is truly remarkable- Nora.
Nora was a total stranger, who walked right up to me at a cafe and said, “Hi, my name is Nora, and I think you are wonderful!”
Wow. She thought that I was valuable without knowing anything about me and the beautiful thing is that she will tell the next person she sees the same thing- and she’ll mean it then too.
We live in a time when we’re told that we have to change the world to matter. There are hundreds of books out there that tell you how to change the world. Nowadays, everybody wants to be an influencer. We don’t have to be famous, or rich, or change the world to matter. It’s because we already matter, that we can change the world around us- our circle of influence and those we meet.
So let’s do that. Let’s change the world around us by seeing the remarkable in every person. Let’s sit down next to the people who are going through a difficult time. Let’s ask questions about people instead of jobs, and let’s always remember that each one is equally valuable regardless of what he does.
Maybe we could all try to be a little more like Nora and go tell a stranger how wonderful she is. Take it from someone who’s been on the receiving end of that kindness, it is nothing less than remarkable.
You are remarkable, my friend!
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