Pastor Rick: A Quiet Riot

by Pastor Rick Henderson

We’ve had some great neighbors and some not so great neighbors over the years, but mostly great.  Several years ago, there was a couple next door who taught me a powerful lesson. And honestly, I don’t think they have any clue regarding the impact they made. They were deaf, and they served as tour guides into deaf culture.  

Even though I didn’t speak sign language, the conversation almost never lagged. As we talked in the driveway or over a shared dinner, stories and laughter flowed easily. The only thing I needed to remember was to look at them when speaking so they could read my lips. That was an easy concession to make. I was happy to do it. It’s possible I even thought I was being considerate and mindful of them. Little did I know, they were the ones making friendship and conversation easy for me.  

They never expected me to learn to sign. They didn’t even expect me to try. They didn’t ask me to make major adjustments. All the effort, all the adjustments were shouldered by them. I was blind to their extreme effort, which meant I took it for granted. I was in the majority culture. Deaf culture is in the minority. Those in the minority are almost always expected to accommodate the majority. Have you ever thought about that? I never did. That all changed the day they hosted a block party.

I was the only person who wasn’t deaf or who didn’t speak sign language. In the first five to ten minutes, everything I took for granted played out as normal. I was having a blast. People took great pains to include me in conversation. It was just as energetic, but less noisy than a typical party. I chuckled to myself that I was at a quiet riot.    

What made this party different from our previous encounters was that I was now the minority culture. After the first few minutes, the pressure shifted to me to accommodate the majority. All of the sudden, staying engaged and connecting socially took more effort than I ever had to give before. If I was going to be included, I had to work for it.  

That was my ‘aha’ moment. For the majority of my life, maybe all of my life, I’ve been blind to the efforts of others. For the majority of my life, maybe for all of my life, I’ve taken for granted the advantages of being in the majority culture. While there is nothing wrong with being in the majority, there is something wrong with an entitled attitude. 

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28) 

Advantages in life should never be a cause of shame or regret. Rather, they should be celebrated. For a follower of Jesus, advantages exist to serve the best interest of others. After all, that’s how Jesus loved us, and he makes it possible to join him in loving all others the exact same way.

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