Columnist Bob Greene told a story that touched my heart. It’s about a newspaperman in a small Midwestern town and the call he got from a school teacher. She wanted to tell him about something that had happened to a child on the playground. He was braced for bad news. Well, it wasn’t. During a lunch break, most of the 8th graders were gathered in groups, talking and playing. This one boy – a student who actually suffered from severe physical disabilities and was new to the school – was off by himself as usual. He was, like, painfully shy.
The teacher noticed another boy – one of the most popular kids in school, a great athlete – leave his group of the “in crowd” boys and walk over to this lone student. Well, eavesdropping, the teacher heard the athlete ask the other boy if he’d like to play catch. That disabled boy said no one liked to play with him and he was afraid he would mess up and the others would laugh at him. With his impaired vision and his thick glasses, he could barely see the ball.
The athlete assured him, “Hey, it’s OK to mess up, man. We all do.” So they began to play catch. When some of the other students saw that Mr. Athlete had included the other boy, they came over to join and play. They made sure he could catch their passes; they made him part of the group all during the lunch break. The teacher said, “It was the kindest thing I’ve witnessed in 28 years as a school teacher.” Then she told the reporter, “The athlete was your son.” That reporter choked back tears at what had suddenly become the proudest moment of his life.
Because of what that popular student did that lunchtime, the school year became a little more bearable for a boy who had been treated as an outcast until then. Most of the time, he’s been treated now with decency and friendship that he actually deserves.
I’m Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about “Changing the Climate.”
That’s what one student did on that playground that day. He changed the climate by his example. It’s what God’s calling you to do where you are. In 1 Timothy 4:12, our word for today from the Word of God, Paul says, “Set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.” Like a thermostat in a building, you can literally help change the temperature where you are by setting the temperature where it should be.
That’s what one school athlete did, and it changed the climate of how people treated each other. God’s calling us to show folks how they should be talking, the kinds of life-choices they should be making, how they should be treating each other, how they should be trusting God for big things, how they should be living pure and uncompromised and with integrity. Not to preach to them about it. To demonstrate it so they know what it looks like!
It’s easy to complain about how things are in your family, or how they are at work or how they are at church or at school. But complaining won’t change a thing. Neither will condemning or criticizing or preaching. What is needed where you are is someone who will be what they wish others would be – to lead by contagious example. To step out from a climate that’s negative or nasty or stressed, prideful, selfish, and to challenge it. Not so much by their words, but by their actions. Decide how you wish everyone would be in your situation, and be it yourself!
Over time, one person can have amazing power to change the atmosphere and to improve the climate. In the places where God has put you, why don’t you be the one who quietly leads everyone else to something better? Don’t wait for someone else to change. No, you have Jesus, and you have the power to start changing the climate in your personal world.