Are you a people watcher? It’s a great hobby. I’m not talking about being a busy body who wants to know what every neighbor is doing or keeping up on the latest gossip. People watching helps pass the time in waiting rooms, airports or while sitting in the mall waiting for someone who does not keep track of time.
At one time I gave programs for many churches and mother/daughter banquets. Since I was the entertainment and not a participant I could sit in anonymity and watch the procedures. It was fun to see the same characters popping up in all gatherings.
There was always the “chairlady” who exercised her duties in a most matter-of-fact manner and was obviously well suited to the position. Then there was the pious gossip who used prayer time to give the juiciest details of those for whom she requested prayer.
Almost always there was the ‘fashion plate’ whose attire advertised the fact of her status in life. She often sat beside the young mother who obviously had time only to throw on the least wrinkled outfit that didn’t bear evidence of an oatmeal tossing baby.
The last description reminds me of an incident that happened one Sunday morning years ago. I was sitting behind an older lady who always came to Church in the most fashionable garb complete with hat and white gloves. This morning an elderly man in wrinkled clothes with unkempt hair took a seat beside her in the pew. She gave him a rather frosty greeting and turned her eyes toward the pulpit. As the sermon progressed the man began nodding. His breathing became slow with an almost imperceptible snore. He began listing to the side; her side. We could see the surreptitious glances she was casting his way and the tiniest of movements away from him. I have no idea what the sermon topic was for everyone sitting within sight of the fascinating tableau was mesmerized.
Slowly he would lean toward her, but at the last moment he would jerk awake and sit straight again. Then he would slowly begin leaning. Would he reach her shoulder this time? What would she do if he did? Luckily for her – or perhaps in answer to her silent, frantic prayers – the sermon ended, everyone stood and catastrophe was averted for one more Sunday.
All in all I’ve found that people are people and the same characteristics are found in pretty much all groups. If you change churches thinking the next congregation will be friendlier or more open or more – you name your preference – you soon find you’ve brought your problems along with your Bible and the same people are sitting in the pews. Only the names change, for people are people. Hopefully we will learn to love our neighbor in spite of his or her imperfections just as we learn to love ourselves in spite of our own.
Next time you have occasion to be a people watcher maybe you could say a quick prayer for the mother with a baby in the stroller and two more hanging onto her skirt. And remember that God is a people watcher, too.