A few weeks back I ran across a lovely list of ten lessons essential for every high school graduate preparing to venture out into the “real world.” While Elaine Bransford, the AP literature teacher who composed them did so for students, they carry applicability for us all. Here’s the first:
“You should know that the world is wide, and while you are an important part of it, you are not the center of it.”
This lesson comes to us from many traditions, including Christianity itself. “You must lose your self to find your self,” Jesus taught. “The last are first.” “The humble will be exalted” (even if they don’t remain humble long after being exalted). This need to situate ourselves and our needs before all others may originate in a self-preservation instinct, but it has intensified due to an American culture that values individual over community, entertainment over service and pleasure over any kind of suffering or endurance.
To “not be the center of the world” is actually freedom. It invites you to connect with a larger reality that augments your own gifts and talents to produce a greater good that can truly make good in our world. If you’re not the center of the world, then you don’t have to do everything by yourself. You can need other people. And you can need Jesus too.