I love a parade. Floats, horses, bands. People passing by, smiling and waving. Recently, I stood on the sideline of a parade holding a homemade sign — “You are a beloved child of God.” Early in the parade a group of military veterans marched by. A man broke formation, ran to me, and embraced me in a “bear hug.”
With tears on his cheeks, he thanked me, saying, “I needed that today. I am a child of God!” That experience was repeated again and again. Throughout the parade, many folks; gay and straight; young and old, black, brown, and white; participating in the parade or just passing by, expressed appreciation for the sign.
Many, like the veteran, showed appreciation with a hug; others with a high five, or a thumbs up; and some with stories of how no one tells them they are loved by God… or loved at all…
I’m glad I was there that day, with my homemade sign. Yet, I can’t carry that sign every day, everywhere I go. So. Let this be a sign unto you: You are a beloved child of God. No ifs, no buts. In my faith tradition we believe that every human being is created in God’s image and is cherished, treasured, and beloved by God. As the child’s song proclaims, “All are precious in God’s sight.”
Wherever you are right now, pause. If you are a person of faith, take a moment to remember whose you are; take a moment to let yourself dwell in God’s love. If you are not a person of faith, talk of God may mean nothing to you, but trust that you are of value, that you have intrinsic worth. You are beloved.
If you happen to be reading this in a coffee shop, look at the barista. He is a beloved child of God. The server in the restaurant. She is God’s beloved child. Your co-worker. A clerk. The driver who cut you off in traffic this morning. The driver you cut off. All beloved. That relative you dread seeing at Thanksgiving? Beloved. The cop who pulled you over for speeding? Beloved.
A driver who was pulled over? Beloved. The opponent of your chosen presidential candidate? Yep, really; she is a beloved child of God, and, yep, he really is too (if you are a praying person, let’s pray for them!). Your neighbor, acquaintance, colleague, relative, other whose politics, religion, gender, sexual orientation, race, income, weight is different than yours? Beloved child of God.
We can’t carry a sign around with us —“You are a beloved child of God”— hoping someone sees it and finds a little hope, a bit of encouragement, a reminder of their worth. But each of us can be that sign. We can choose to be courteous, we can choose to be kind, we can choose to add goodness to each encounter.
For example, we can choose to participate in the election process with grace and decorum even when candidates don’t. We can choose to listen to someone with whom we disagree, seeking to understand where they are coming from even when it dismays us. And we can choose our response to be reasoned and civil, even as we try to sway our conversation partner to our opinion.
Let’s be the goodness, the love, that we want to see in the world. Nod and smile at someone as you walk up the street. Pay for an extra cup of coffee so that the next person’s cup is free. Allow a car, or two, access and not grouse if you don’t get a lifted hand as thank you.
On the other hand, when we receive a kindness, big or small, let’s say thank you — every time we can. Be gracious, be grateful. Make someone’s day better. See, recognize, and honor the divine spark in another, for all are precious in God’s sight.
Rev. Dr. Julie Carmean is pastor, William Street United Methodist Church.