Lift others up as Jesus did

By Vinal Van Benthem | March 28, 2014

A friend once gave me a little book entitled “Attic People.” The book’s premise is that there are two kinds of people — attic people who pull you up and basement people who pull you down.

Jesus obviously defines the actions of an attic person. This Sunday’s Gospel serves as a good example.

My friend saw me as an attic person. It’s pretty easy to be an attic person around our friends. The question is how do we treat people who aren’t our friends — the people who live in our neighborhood or go to our church? How do we treat our co-workers? Are we concerned about the man whose job is disappearing because his company is moving overseas? What if we’re the one who has to let someone go? How do we tell them? Do we offer a severance package to help them pay their bills until they find work? Do we offer job counseling and/or space where they can conduct a job search? Do we pull them up? Or do we pull them down?

Mary Beth was hired by a large manufacturing facility specifically to prepare employees for the time when the plant would be closing a year or two in advance of it actually doing so. Her job included planning seminars and workshops on everything from learning new job skills to developing self-esteem to preparing a resume. For employees who were not fluent in English she engaged the services of a language tutor. She even planned an ice cream social and a couple of pizza parties in order to reassure the employees that they were not alone and that the company really cared what happened to them.

Because this company really did care, it hired Mary Beth to be light for its employees in the darkness of their fear and confusion over an uncertain future. This company hired Mary Beth because she sees and values the dignity of every person she works with. She does not judge by appearances. She is not impressed by lofty stature. The 200-plus people who have successfully moved into other jobs because of Mary Beth would describe her as an attic person. How would the people we work with describe us?

Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister, retreat leader, spiritual director and published writer and poet.



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