My job requires that I interact with people on a daily basis. I am grateful for these encounters, but often find myself irritated with the people around me. Many of my mornings are spent with preschoolers and their teachers. Typically, I adore the children, while judging their teachers as harsh, insensitive or even incompetent. I leave these classrooms and am faced with a drive across the city back to my office. During this commute, I debrief the classroom with the other person I had been assigned with that morning. Invariable, I find myself wondering how these teachers could so quickly lose their passion for people and sink into apathy.
But one morning, I caught myself. I am a self-proclaimed people person. I’m an extrovert; I get my energy from being around people. I am fascinated by their stories, amuzed by their quirks and comforted by their presence. Yet I was dismissive of a whole category of people. Why?
I think that I failed to realized the imagio dei in these teachers. It seemed so clear in the students; young, innocent. But their teachers are so often hardened by life and decades of monotony. I must remember that there are no mere mortals:
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations–these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit–immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of the kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously–no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinners–no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat, the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.
These words from C.S. Lewis are humbling and challenging. Each day, I have the opportunity to interact with creatures made in the very image of God. And each day, I have a choice to ascribe dignity and worth to that image, or to try and degrade that image, and inflate my own self in so doing. May we all live such lives so as to treat each person as extraordinare.