How Many Miracles Have You Seen?

I hate junk mail. Every Tuesday, there’s the Fiesta flyer, the pizza coupons, and the tire coupon with a missing child’s photo on the back. I’m also flooded with solicitations for my help. The banks want to send credit cards to me so I can help my lifestyle. I can help my community according to local charities. And the Republicans, Democrats, and their lobbyists all want me to help the nation — by sending money and voting for them. Then came a unique letter with advice to help the world: “Dear Chuck, I love you. Love your neighbors. Signed, God. P.S., make 6.2 billion copies of the letter and send one to everyone else in the world.”

Mr. Toastmaster, fellow members, and guests, have you ever tried to love 6.2 billion people? Where do you start? Let’s see, I love my wife. That’s easy, although the rates of divorce and domestic violence tell me that some of us are still working on it. I love my friends; we do things together: dinner, games, even Toastmasters’ stuff. But what did the letter say: “love your neighbors?” Does that mean the drug dealer living below me in my last apartment? How about the man at the intersection asking for money, who retreats under the overpass when the light goes green and drinks from a brown paper bag? What about corporate executives at Enron, Tyco, and Microsoft.

Hold that thought; I want to start another thread. I remember when my boy was born, and it was a miracle. He had these tiny fingers and eyes and ears where, ten months earlier, there’d been nothing. I remember when he turned two and learned to jump. Until then, he thought jumping was to squat down and stand up real fast, and it was a miracle to see him explore his world and his abilities. Now he’s six, and he reads to me and plays and watches baseball and loves mysteries, and I wonder: when do they stop being a miracle? Is it when they start school and now they spend more time with other people than with you? Is it when they begin dating, and you realize that, someday, they may care for someone else more than they do you? Is it when they leave home and get a job and aren’t part of your everyday life? Okay, maybe our children are always a miracle, but here’s a question for you. Do you consider everyone else in this room as a miracle? What about the checkout clerk at Kroger; the anonymous spammers sending offensive email to you; what about people from a different race, a different culture, a different political party? Have they stopped being a miracle?

If there’s one thing that you remember from this speech, here’s what I want it to be. To love your neighbors, you need to see them as miracles. To love your neighbors, you need, in your heart, to see them as miracles. It’s a simple message, but it has dramatic consequences. Two illustrations.

My friend Chris squeezed into a parking spot at the Post Office. And I mean squeezed, because the car to her left had parked way over the line. She carefully tried to get out, but her door bumped against it. “Don’t hit my car,” she heard through the open window. Naturally, it wasn't until she got inside that she thought of all those clever replies that she could've used. But when she went back outside, he was still sitting in his car, just sitting, so the reply she chose was “I think you’re having a real bad day, and I’m sorry for hitting your car.” He didn’t say anything, but as she left, she heard him start to cry.

The other story is from the Kansas City airport about ten years ago as I was returning to Houston. It was crowded but not packed. My wife was away for a moment when another woman kind of collapsed into her seat. I remember saying “Oh, I’m sorry, my wife’s sitting here.” “I don’t see her here.” Unlike Chris, I knew right what to say. I turned away from her and shrugged towards the crowd watching me sympathetically. “Must be from Oklahoma.” It was cryptic enough that someone had to ask “what do you mean?” “Not friendly enough to be from Texas, not polite enough to be from Kansas.” Oh, it was scathing and perfect. What could she do? I wasn’t even talking to her, so anything she said would’ve just dug herself in deeper. So she just sat there and stewed until her flight was moved to another gate, and I lost my chance to apologize for a remark that still haunts me, a remark I’ve never bragged about, never even talked about until this speech.

So who loved their neighbor? It’s a simple thing, but nearly impossible to do. A simple thing because you don’t have to change your diet, exercise, join a cause, or even write to your Congressman. All I’m asking you to do is change how you treat one another. Yeah, right. There’s no way. It’s impossible. It’d take a miracle. Good thing we live in a world with more than six billion miracles. To love your neighbors, you need to see them as miracles. And that’s why I conclude by saying: I love you. God loves you. Love your neighbor. Mister Toast… PS. Make 6.2 billion copies of this speech and live it with everyone you encounter. Mister Toastmaster.

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