So far, all of you who are avid readers of the President’s Message know that this page has focused this year on having A Sense of….Purpose, Humor, and, for this issue, Others.

It has been my observation that many people seem to lack this particular “sense.” They are so caught up in “self” (see the next issue of the Advocate) that they have lost a sense of others. Here are some self-check clues as to whether you are one of those people:

  • When someone tells you about his or her day, is your mind focusing on how your day has been?“
    I’ve had the most awful day,” a friend says. “Oh, if you think you’ve had a bad day, you should hear about mine!” is your automatic response. You can substitute “wonderful” and “great” in these sentences, but it still sends the same message: I’m more interested in talking about myself than I am in truly listening to you.
  • Instead of connecting with others with a “yes, and…” statement, you find yourself saying, “oh, sure, but…”When the multicultural members met for lunch in Albuquerque, we were led through an exercise where we matched up with another person who made a one-sentence statement about him or herself. We were then to say, “Yes, and…” and then connect whatever we said to the statement of the first person. This exercise went back and forth for several minutes. It was amazing to me how much I had in common with Hei, my conversation partner. By listening to what he said, I had first to affirm his statement and then find a way to connect with it. This Caucasian, female educator connected with this Asian, male pastor. Each focused on the other. We connected. We were then encouraged to use this in our Sessions and committees in order to connect with others whom we may know only by name.

Think about the friends whom you truly love. What is it about them that makes them so loveable? I am going to bet that they have a true sense of others. When you empty your soul to them, they know how to listen. When you express joy and excitement, they rejoice with you.

Your homework assignment for today is this:

  • Spend 24 hours without talking about yourself.
  • When someone talks to you, listen to them. Don’t feel you have to give an answer or a solution to their problem—just listen. Connect with them; enrich them by your presence; empower them by letting them have a voice; sustain them in their sense of self. (Sorry, folks, I had to get our mission into at least one of these articles. Laugh Out Loud!)

A final note: If you’ve noticed, in each column I ask you to consider a homework assignment. This practice is a tribute to Tom Gallaher, a loving pastor, who, at the end of each sermon, told the congregation, “Your homework for this afternoon is…:” He was an encourager and an amazing example of one who had a sense of others.

Sue Moore is a ruling elder and certified Christian educator in the PC(USA) and is a past president of APCE. Her greatest joy is found in studying and teaching the Bible.