Perspective and a Shifted Assessment

Imagine your thoughts as you walk past two homeless men panhandling outside and in the lobby of a major concert. The men are begging for money from the patrons coming to the concert. They, homeless and probably disheveled and possibly smelly come up to people who are, most likely, nicely dressed – people who are anticipating a fun, lovely evening with their teenage children.

Many thoughts flood your mind. Why are they homeless? Can’t they find work? Who are their parents, family? Are they thieves? Maybe they are lazy; maybe they have given up and really don’t care about themselves or anyone. You walk past and into the concert feeling a kind of disdain and wish that those homeless men were not there. You also feel hopeless to do anything to help them. Hopefully they will be gone when you come out of the concert. Then, you will not have to be annoyed at them or by them.

You have a certain perspective on these men.

Was my assessment accurate? Partially, but that is not the whole picture of these two men and their human capacity A glaring example of having only partial perspective is the continuation of that concert evening.

Just as the American singer Ariana Grande’s concert ended that night May 22, 2017 a suicide bombing was carried out at Manchester Arena in Manchester, Engand. This is the concert the two homeless men were present and panhandling at.

These two homeless men became unlikely heroes of the Manchester attacks. The news offered moving accounts of how they helped victims. The two men, Steve Jones and Chris Parker, were in the area to sleep and beg for money.

Chris Parker, 33, was in the foyer area of the venue, where he regularly goes to beg for money as concertgoers head home, when the attack occurred – and said he saw a ‘flash of light’ before the blast.

Mr Parker, who has slept rough in the city for about a year, spoke about a woman in her 60s who suffered fatal leg and head injuries in the bombing. ‘She passed away in my arms. Said she had been with her family. I haven’t stopped crying.’ Another one of them said, “Of course you will help; it’s all about the children. I was pulling nails out of their arms and faces.”

“Just because I am homeless does not mean I’ve not got a heart, and I’m not human still.” When the ambulance arrived they were still helping out.

The original perspective on these two homeless men suddenly broadens and comes full orbed. Perspective is “to look through; to see clearly; the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance; view your own task in a larger framework; gain a broader perspective for example on the international scene.”

Reading about and seeing pictures of these two homeless men shifted, added to and enlarged the immediate perspective of them. I wonder how many other situations could be resolved, eased and straightened out if only there were a better perspective.

  A few thoughts we can take away from this story:

1) God is at work all the time even when we don’t see or acknowledge Him.

2) We can ask God to help us have an accurate perspective on difficult relationships. Sometimes we get stuck. As Christians we know we are not omniscient and privy to all the details of any situation. We cannot possibly see and assess accurately. Yet the Lord invites us, “If any of you lack wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

3) God desires to continue the process of forming us into His image and enlarging our perspective on Him, on our own lives and on others. He invites us to pray –“Search me, God and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24

4) We have this hope that one day we WILL have the right perspective about everything -1Corinthians 13:12 “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”

For now as we wait for His return, this frequently used statement attributed to a number of people over the years is a strong reminder for us when we need a perspective shift and review this story of the two homeless heroes.

                “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a mighty battle.”

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Webster’s Collegiate  Dictionary and Google images
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Gail Seidel served as Mentor Advisor for Spiritual Formation in the Department of Spiritual Formation and Leadership at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) and as an Adjunct Professor in the D Min in Spiritual Formation in the D Min Department at Dallas Theological Seminary. She has a BA in English from the University of Texas, a Masters in Christian Education from Dallas Seminary and a D Min in Spiritual Formation from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She is a contributor to the textbook, Foundations of Spiritual Formation, Kregel Academic. She served as co-director for Christian Women in Partnership Russia with Entrust, an international church leadership-training mission. She and her husband Andy live in Fredericksburg, Texas. They have 2 married children and 6 wonderful grandchildren--Kami, Kourtney, Katie, Mallory, Grayson, and Avery.