In a season where giving and getting—having and not having—are largely measured by material standards, I’m thankful to have been raised by a father who, like the God he believed in, was “no respecter of persons.”
As a thoracic surgeon, he treated every patient with the same respect and selfless regard. Some were addicts with barely a cigarette to their name. Others were celebrities with television shows of their own and second homes in Palm Springs. He invited all of them home for dinner and usually had me play my tiny violin for them.
We lived simply. My mother “put more water in the soup” whenever they came. Through my father’s eyes, I detected no shades of difference in race, social, or economic status. In fact, the language of status was not spoken in our home and is still as foreign to me as Mandarin or Arabic.
I had no idea that surgeons made more money than janitors, and I certainly had no sense that one was more important than the other. I still have gifts that some of our varied guests gave me, autographed with names I found uniquely intriguing because of the interesting stories they told.
Even now, as I watch people jockey to demonstrate their superiority based on one scale or another—talent, intellect, knowledge, expertise, degree, pedigree, political affiliation, fame, money, influence—I still see it all through the eyes of my father who grew up with one foot in Minnesota farm dirt and the other in heaven.
It’s no accident that I married someone who treats people with the same kindness and even-handed respect as my father. Someone who measures neither his words nor his treatment of others based on external measures of status or wealth. Someone who is blind to the walls that divide us, even when I reluctantly point them out.
If my father’s loving, respectful, even-handed regard for others is even a flickering reflection of the God he served, heaven will be a very nice place to live. If everyone on earth caught a glimpse of his vision, this could be a very nice place to live as well.