Sunday, August 23, 2009
This is Mr. Weber's 4th assembly talk of the year.
The average American is bombarded with over 3000 advertising messages each day, counting commercials on TV, internet ads, road signs, radio, sponsorships, email, telephone and the like. Corporate America spends over 620 billion dollars a year in advertising, and they’re not doing it to be charitable. They are clamoring for your attention in what is a very noisy, very crowded playing field.
Because we’re under siege, we've developed a habit of not paying attention. Even when we're in the same room with each other, we are likely somewhere else, on cell phones or texting. When I visited downtown Chicago with a friend, he told me not to make eye contact with the homeless or else they’ll ask you for money. He said to keep looking forward and give the appearance you’re in a hurry. If you’ve ever watched people walk around in a big city, that’s exactly how most people operate, putting on deliberate blinders, trying hard not to make eye contact, being as careful as they can to avoid contact with others.
I had exactly the opposite experience at JPII on Thursday of last week. Some of you noticed I was pushing around a lady in a wheelchair, showing her our campus. That was my mother in law. A little over 2 years ago she was on her deathbed, but has recovered such that she was able to visit us for the first time since we moved to Hendersonville in June of 2008.
As I wheeled her around, you opened doors for her. You moved gym bags out of the way so that we could get by. You smiled at her. Teachers came up to her and introduced themselves and told her how wonderful it was that she was here. In short, all of you NOTICED her, and your hospitality said something very powerful, very counter-cultural, about the kind of place JPII is. Beaming after the experience, she told me, “Boy, you have a really nice people at your school.” I consider that a high compliment for all of us. So should you.
Hospitality is, after all, all about paying attention to people. Some people are easy to pay attention to—they’re personable, or funny, or good looking or smart. They have a natural charisma that demands attention. But the mark of a truly Christian community is how well it pays attention to the others: around JPII, our Cross-gate cleaning ladies, or our cafeteria staff, or perhaps the quiet student who doesn’t seem to have any friends.
Also visiting us last week was my wife’s uncle and aunt from central Ohio. After piddling around town for a few days, they said “It’s really amazing how friendly people in the south are.” As someone born and bred in the south, I consider THAT a high compliment too. May it always be said about us southerners, and may it always be said about this student body and Pope John Paul II High School.