Working on the Outside, Living on the Inside

By Rev. Paul N. Papas II
31 August 2010

Working on the Outside, Living on the Inside

You might be familiar with the phrase: “what you see is what you get”. What can you really see?

One of the new buzz words is transparency. The idea is that you are to be completely transparent; you are to give up all your secrets or in business that you provide all your contacts. They name streets after people like that called: One Way. I’d prefer to travel on two way streets with people otherwise I get a knot in my stomach.

This reminds me of a traveler, between flights at an airport, who went to a lounge and bought a small package of cookies. She sat down and began reading a newspaper when she gradually became aware of a rustling noise.

From behind her paper, she was flabbergasted to see a neatly dressed man helping himself to her cookies. Not wanting to make a scene, she leaned over and took a cookie herself.

A minute or two later there came more rustling.

He was helping himself to another cookie! By this time, they’d come to the end of the package, but she so angry she didn’t dare allow herself to say anything.

Then, as if to add insult to injury, the man broke the remaining cookie in two, pushed half across to her, ate the other half, and left.

Still fuming some time later when her flight was announced, the woman opened her handbag to get her ticket. To her shock and embarrassment, there she found her pack of unopened cookies!

How wrong our assumptions can be.

We make certain assumptions when we make decisions, so assumptions are not necessarily bad. When you buy a car you assume there will be gasoline available to power the car and you assume you can afford to buy the gas.

Our bodies can look whole, but our mind and thoughts can, at times, be more like Swiss cheese.

We work among others in a community, but we live with what is inside us, what we are made of.

This is the fifth anniversary of hurricane Katrina devastating the Gulf Coast of our country. When I first volunteered to go to that region as a Salvation Army Disaster Relief worker there were some who said to me that they’d never accept the help of a northerner. Those people assumed the Civil War was still being fought today and preferred not to go and help. They preferred not to take time off from work to help others in need because of where they lived on the inside of themselves assuming they would not be welcomed.

There was an assumption there would be many suicides in that region because people would be devastated because they and their neighbors lost their homes, their cars, their jobs, and life as they knew it.

I have never received such a welcome before or since as I did when I landed in Mississippi. The area from the air and on the ground looked like a war zone. There where houses thrown into houses with many moved blocks away and still in the roadways where they came to rest. There were water marks painted on buildings forty feet high to show how high the ocean reached. There were still markings on the buildings show how many dead bodies or pets were discovered inside what was standing.

Yes there were people there who had their bad moments and needed comfort, but within themselves they had a resolve that were going to rebuilt and start over. I had the pleasure to volunteer along side people mostly from all over the United States and Canada. I do remember a few from England. The people of the Gulf Coast may have had to work in a war zone, but they lived with a higher and greater purpose within themselves. They simply did not allow the place they worked on the outside to destroy where they lived on the inside.

The people of the Gulf Coast who were devastated by hurricane Katrina were more like the man eating the cookies, than the woman who later found her cookies in her purse. What they lived on the inside was much more transparent than many who work on the outside today.

There were many signs and spray painted messages thanking the volunteers who came to help. As I was boarding the plane leaving Mississippi the airline had a Thank You message to all the volunteers who came to help at gate.

The rebuilding is not yet complete from hurricane Katrina, but that is true in many people’s lives.

Just because people go through tough times there should be no assumption about their outlook or their future prospects. It is proper to be available and ready willing and able to assist those who many exhibit signs of a medical issue of a mental illness, but don’t assume. Just because they may work in a war zone don’t assume they live in a war zone.

You can’t always see what you get.

Rev. Paul N. Papas II is a Pastoral Counselor with Narrow Path Ministries of MA and AZ and is the Founder of the Family Renewal Center. http://www.narrowpathministries.org and http://www.familyrenewalcenteraz.org

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