As I mentioned in a previous post, our Knights of Columbus council recently held its annual Charities Banquet. One of the highlights of the banquet is the recognition of various outstanding individuals and families.
This year, the biographies of those being recognized were very impressive, and two conflicting thoughts crossed my mind as the lists of accomplishments for the recipients were being read.
The first thought was that I was unaware of how great a contribution so many of those around me have made in their community and their church. None of us is an island, and in a life well-lived, we are bound to accumulate accomplishments. It is in the small acts of love, which often go unnoticed, that we live out our vocations as Christians. The world is a better place for what these people have done.
In contrast, my second thought was much less charitable, and reflects badly upon me. That thought was along the lines of “I know X. The person just described sounds like a wonderful, involved, active person. X is an OK person, but X is not all THAT.”
This, I believe, is an instance in which the old adage that familiarity breeds contempt is given some basis. There have been times in the past when my dear wife has expressed an admiration for another couple and a desire to get to know them better. It is a painful truth that all too often, getting to know another couple better leads to a loss of admiration as we discover a number of not-so-admirable traits (as I am sure that they discover ours as well). It has led me on at least one occasion to say, “No, I’d rather keep my high opinion of them.”
This, it occurs to me, is not very Christian, and I need to struggle against this attitude. To know a person better should increase the ability to love that person. To acknowledge that one has failings does not diminish the greatness of one’s accomplishments. If anything, it magnifies them. Our good works are the result of God’s grace at work through us.
For my part, the only credit that I deserve for any good thing that I’ve done, is that I’ve gotten out of the way and allowed God’s work to proceed.
To all those recognized by our council this year I say congratulations and thank you. Thank you for allowing yourself to be used by the almighty. Thank you for doing the work that you’ve done without recognition. Yours is a life well lived.