Press "Enter" to skip to content


By Mike Ruffin I started ‘preaching’ (I mean the quotation marks in the sense of ‘so-called’) when I was about fourteen years old. Preacher Bill Coleman, our pastor at Midway Baptist Church, would let anyone (well, any male) who wanted to speak at a Wednesday night prayer meeting do so. I remember him once saying that he hadn’t preached on a Wednesday night in three years. The streak may have lasted a lot longer than that, for all I know. I signed up occasionally. It was good practice. Most of the good folks who had to listen to me are long gone. I hope they received extra stars in their crowns for their kindness to me. When word got around Lamar County that a boy preacher was on the loose, I got invitations to preach at some other churches in the area. One such invitation came from Rock Springs Congregational Methodist Church. This was around in the early 1970s, so back when it was a pretty small congregation meeting in a pretty small sanctuary. I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but my parents had to take me because I wasn’t old enough to drive. We arrived a little early. A few folks were standing outside the building, chatting in small groups. My father turned the car off. I just sat in the back seat. He turned to me and said, ‘Don’t you think you should get out and talk to those folks?’ ‘I want to look over my sermon,’ I replied. He responded, ‘Listen, son’”being a preacher is about more than preaching. You’re going to have to learn to relate to people. So get out of the car and go meet these people.’ It wasn’t the word of the Lord, but he said it like it was, so I did what he said. I’ve been trying to relate to and to get to know people ever since. It was a struggle for me at first because I’m really an introvert. Given the choice, I’d rather sit in the corner reading a book than talk to people. But since I wasn’t going to be a monk or a hermit, I didn’t have the option of avoiding people. So I had to learn to relate to them as best I could. After nearly five decades of intentionally relating to people, I’ve come to a few conclusions about them’”well, about us. First, people are simultaneously simple and complex. We have simple needs. We need to love and to be loved, to be safe and secure, and to find purpose and meaning. But our ideas of what love, security, and purpose mean vary widely because of our differing backgrounds and experiences. We have differing understandings of our simple needs because of the ways our life journeys have complicated our perspectives and viewpoints. Second, people are simultaneously open and closed. We are open to new information, discoveries, and developments. We realize that the world changes, that cultures evolve, and that knowledge expands, and we are open to such changes, evolutions, and expansions. In fact, we often accept them without even thinking about them. But we are also closed to new information and developing knowledge if they challenge our preconceived notions and views of the way things should be. We’re wide open in many ways but closed tight in others. Third, people are simultaneously selfless and selfish. We are willing to give ourselves up for other people. We have compassion toward people who experience pain and loss, and we may even help sometimes. But we may limit our list of people who merit our compassion and who deserve our help. We may restrict it to our family and friends. At our worst, our first thought is of what helping will cost us. At our absolute worst, our first thought is of what’s in it for us or of what the person in need would do for us were the situation reversed. Yet generally, it’s not possible for us to be free of self-interest. Fourth, people are simultaneously fascinating and frustrating. The complications and complexities of people’s backgrounds, experiences, perspectives, attitudes, and actions mesmerize me. We all belong to groups that in some ways produce some commonalities between us and others. But each one of us in a unique individual. And as the old punchline says, some of us are more unique than others. The differences between us are fascinating, but they are also a source of frustration. Why can’t you be, think, and act more like I do? Why can’t I be, think, and act more like you do. There are many reasons, but sometimes it’s just that, being who we are, we just can’t. There is more to us than I’ve laid out here. And I don’t want to leave you thinking that we’re just what and who we are and that we can never change and that’s that. No, we are each responsible for ourselves. Our backgrounds and experiences have formed and shaped us, but we also have made choices along the way and we can still make choices. We can and should strive to change any attitudes, perspectives, assumptions, motivations, habits, and actions that belittle us, that harm others, or that don’t contribute to the making of a better world. People. You can’t live with them. And you can’t live without them.

Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Website by - Copyright 2021