Isn’t it incredible how quickly we intuitively sense whether someone really cares about us or not? When we engage with another human being, it is usually clear whether they regard us with respect or contempt.
Kids may be even more sensitive to this reality (or maybe they are just less distracted). I have seen students react to volunteers very differently. When they sense that a volunteer is just hunting for a new photo for their Instagram feed, instead of genuinely caring for them as an individual person, they respond hesitantly. When they sense love and respect, they light up quickly and authentically!
Three of my friends, Gigi, Aram and Sam, have each invested many weeks with our students over the years. For Sam, it has been five years. Aram has invested four years, and Gigi will return to Hope Haven her fourth time in a few months. It is obvious that they deeply care for our students, and the kids reflect love back to them.
They each have their unique ways of blessing the kids. Gigi is often found handing out Polaroid photos to students and teachers—a simple gift they will treasure for years! Aram can usually be found with kids swinging on his muscular arms, filled with joy. And when Sam left the campus recently, she nearly missed her flight because of the tears of literally every one of our Primary Level Six students. She wrote each one of them an individual letter and cried with them as she left. It was an unforgettable moment to witness!
We can be empowered by God to love others when we recognize that we share the same origin. As Saint Paul said to the Athenians in Acts 17:28, “‘In him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” It is helpful to pray that God will enliven us with a deep sense of respect for other people, recognizing them as fellow image-bearers of God.
I am grateful for the numerous ways that Gigi, Aram and Sam have faithfully modeled this truth with our students. May God remind us all this week that every single person we encounter is an image-bearer of God, made in the “imago Dei,” and to render them the love and respect they deserve.