True Story: When Rose Opens the Door

I sat on the couch just around the corner as Rose opened the door for the food delivery man and strained to hear what I thought might be coming. She’s the 80-something year old friend of my grandparents, and I’d gone to visit her with my baby. I have always been impressed with this sparkly Italian woman, but that day she impressed me even more.

Rose 2“Do you know Jesus?” she asked the young guy at the door.

“Yes ma’am, I do.”

Wow, respectful kid. I like him.

“Because it’s not just about believing, you know. It’s a relationship.”

For several minutes a conversation ensued with this man who seemed slightly curious about what she meant. I bit back a smile and listened, knowing I’d never have the courage to talk this frankly to anyone. I mean, not everyone appreciates such directness. Often people are offended by it, especially coming from a stranger. In my immature faith, I shy away from stating things so plainly and openly, afraid of what people will think.

With a sweet chuckle, Rose hugged her new friend and shut the door. “Well, he certainly got a few words from me!”

Yes, he did. A few wonderful words.

“You know, Joanna, I never used to speak my mind. I didn’t have the courage to tell people about what was important to me. But now I’m 87 years old, and I haven’t got much time left on earth. So I don’t care what people think of me anymore!”

RoseThe person who led her to Christ, however, never cared what a single person thought of him. This is the part I love—the love story. In the 1940s, when Andy picked up Rose for their first date (before she was a Christian), he had the audacity to take her to a Youth for Christ rally! He then demonstrated Christ to her for over 65 years of marriage. In his career as an optometrist, Andy held the same standards. His eye chart consisted of Scripture and his conversation with patients was full of the Lord. While it would be hard to get away with such practices now, I doubt that would have stopped Andy. Then, when his life was near its end, he sat in a nursing home, barely able to speak, and prayed aloud for the workers who served him. Many even came to his room to ask for prayer. I watched it happen—it was obvious they cherished the guy.

Rose’s words resonated in my heart for weeks after our visit. “I haven’t got much time left on earth, so I don’t care what people think of me anymore.” But you know what? Most of us could say the same. We spend—what, 80 or so years on this earth, and it all passes in a blink before we are faced with eternity. Is that little snippet of time actually that long? Is it long enough that we must tiptoe around to protect our image, shy away from sharing with other people the greatest thing in our lives? We are cheating ourselves—and them.

Yes, it’s intimidating to share a message that seems backwards to this climb-the-ladder, me-first, I-have-rights world, but what’s the real risk? Scripture says our lives here are like dust in the wind. A vapor. And in that short time we can make certain that NO ONE dislikes us (come on—is that really possible anyway?) or we can get the gift of salvation into as many hands and hearts as possible.

And for the brief time you’re a part of this earth, please please—stop valuing what people think of you. Instead, value those people enough to share Christ with them.


True Stories: The Secret Makings of a Superhero Photographer

Today being “Robb appreciation day” (i.e., my little brother’s birthday), I thought I’d let you in on what makes him so cool. Some people just have that special quality that draws people to themselves, and my brother is one. He has an upbeat, positive attitude, he’s goofy and outgoing, and he goes out of his way to help people who need him. This all serves him well in his photography business, but he has a secret ingredient that makes him memorable.

Once upon a time, I was writing a novel about a photographer, so I asked him for advice. How can my character stand apart as a photographer and get really great shots? He told me how to get subjects to lift their chins. “Get them talking about something they’re really passionate about.” Their dog, a wrestling match, awesome kids, whatever makes them tick. When you do this, they instantly relax, and their chin lifts, giving the photographer a confident pose that flatters nearly everyone. Check out the best pictures–it’s true!

He didn’t stop there. He also lets loose and gets goofy. Really goofy. Check out his own personal pictures if you don’t believe me. “This lets people know they can be themselves. Lets them relax around me.” I don’t know many people who aren’t relaxed in his presence.



Those are all great tips, and very telling about his personality, but there’s more to it than that.

His true secret–he finds the good in people.

I seriously admire this trait, because I’m not good at it. I’m a natural-born editor, and I notice mistakes and flaws. I even point them out sometimes. While the world may size up a shy kid with few friends and say, “he’s not cool,” Robb will most assuredly find something awesome about the guy and focus on it. If the kid knows a ridiculous amount about sports, rocks the drums, or simply gets awesome grades, that’ll be the topic of conversation around Robb. In the past, he’s made me feel awesome about learning how to mow my own grass, teaching myself to drive stick-shift, or editing his college paper. And he makes you feel like the best at whatever skill you have, no matter how small. This validation makes anyone comfortable in his presence. Makes them enjoy being around him.

His ability to do this is one of the most godly talents I’ve seen. In his pictures, he makes people look their best by focusing on their strengths, and makes them look natural by making them feel good about themselves. And it goes beyond the camera lens. This is simply how he treats people in everyday life.

When I walk into a room, how do I make people feel? Sometimes I’m not even thinking about it–I’m focused on how people perceive me, not themselves. When I leave a room, have I lifted any chins? Breathed a pleasant, validating aura into the room? Did anyone’s day change for the better in my presence?

It’s not hard to pick out the flaws–it takes no special talent. Nor is it hard to let people know our own strengths, to make sure they know how great we are. The true skill is in lifting that chin, noticing and then drawing out the good in someone. Making them feel like a rock star in your presence. Every person has value, but sometimes we forget that. What might it do for someone if you started out with that thought when you talked to them?

So there it is, my brother’s secret. I’m pretty glad to be his sister, and very proud of the person he is.