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Generous Humanity

By Charlie Osewalt | 15 February 2016 | Comments (1)

Generous Humanity - a Stewardship blog

What makes us human? Love, forgiveness, anger, hate?

Perhaps a better question would be: what makes me human?

My answer is seeing and hearing others. Why? Because this is where I am my weakest, most self-centred: when I only see myself, not those around me, not others. When I walk by people sleeping rough in the street; when I don’t say ‘thank you’ to the young girl selling me my daily coffee; when I sit by my spouse and not really listen or see her as she speaks, I become more and more alone. Less human.

Shortly after the terrorist attacks in Paris, a London pastor posted this story that illustrates this principle of seeing and hearing and how it makes us human.

“A moment of shared humanity I’ll never forget. Just as I was locking up the church today, a woman with tears in her eyes approached asking to spend one minute in the church. As she had a French accent, I didn’t hesitate. I could see it. She walked in, spent a minute in silence and walked out. As she was leaving, I said I was so sorry. She stopped, thanked me and went on to say her closest friends were shot and killed in the Bataclan on Friday night. We spoke briefly before she walked off, slowly and gently. This post is about her, and countless others, aching and mourning across the world. It’s just one story. It’s one person we can think of when #prayforparis. Or Beirut. Or your city. Or the world. We are not immune to pain in this world, but we don’t have to go through pain alone. Love one another. It’s what we’re here to do.”

Chris, the pastor who saw the hurting other, was being human. As he states at the beginning of his blog, this shared humanity. Being human means seeing and responding. And when we do so we are honouring the Creator, because being made in His image, we do what He does best: sees and hears the hurting, brokenness of others. Hagar is a Bible character who experiences His sight, His presence.

In Genesis 16, Hagar is alone, unwed, abused and pregnant in a desert. She is abandoned and near physical and emotional death. But at her darkest, the angel of the Lord comes to her, and speaks comfort to her. He hears her cries and sees her. Here is her response:

 “She (Hagar) gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

By keeping a church door open, Chris saw not just one individual, but the ones in his life, in Paris, in Beirut and in all the world. His generosity rippled through humanity. Chris saw in the one, the many and in doing so he was truly human.


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Posted by Charlie Osewalt

Charles Osewalt is a husband, father of four children and former elder at Redeemer Church NYC. He has worked in schools for the last twenty years as principal in the Morrisanna section of the Bronx. He formerly worked as a content and curriculum specialist for Stewardship. He tweets at @charlesosewalt


Penny McKenzie

February 17, 2016 5:34 PM
At 61 after having a busy working life, being married for almost 40years and having raised 3 beautiful children I was spinally injured in a road traffic accident. Being confined to a wheelchair made getting back to the Church that my husband and I had attended for years, very difficult. I hated having to be stuck in the aisle, feeling that I was in everybody's way and yet at the same time feeling invisible because I was not at the same height as the rest of the congregation. The solution, not suggested by me, and actioned without fuss or palaver, was to remove a couple of pews, reduce the length of them, and replace them. So I could once again be part of the congregation. and not in the way. Humanity at work.... I really think so. Thank you for "seeing" me.

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