It’s easy to be friendly to people who are like us- people who think like we do, act like we do, and believe and value what we do. What measure of friendliness do we show when it’s the opposite?
These thoughts came to mind recently when my daughter took a step of kindness and complimented a girl she is not very fond of on an outfit she was wearing, only to receive an insult in return as the girl responded, “Oh well thanks, but your shorts don’t really match your shirt and your shoes don’t go with it either.” In my flesh, I was so angry my daughter put herself out there to someone who was so rude. And on top of that, it was an instance my daughter was trying to stretch herself to be friendly to someone she had difficulty showing friendliness! In the end, Brooklyn and I both ended up having some growth in our character from that situation as we prayed for this girl.
In the time following, Brandon and I were reminded of the harshness of humans when we set down with our redbox to watch The Imitation Game. Our opportunities to catch a movie on our own, are rare. It’s a film that released in the fall of 2014, about the life of Alan Turing and his work during World War II developing a machine to crack Germany’s Enigma code. His machine known as “Turing machines” laid the groundwork for development into what we all use in our homes, set in our laps, and even carry in our pockets. Computers.
I know. You’re probably thinking, “What a legacy!” It certainly is. Subtitles at the end of the film acknowledge his legacy saying, “Historians estimate that breaking Enigma shortened the war by more than two years, saving over 14 million lives.”
But it is another subtitle that we see the tragedy of this story. “Alan killed himself in 1954, after a year of government-mandated hormonal therapy.” And then we’re informed, “ Between 1885 and 1967, approximately 49,000 homosexual men were convicted of gross indecency under British law.” One website writes, “It’s one of history’s awful ironies that the general public found out Turing was gay, by way of an indecency trial brought by British authorities, long before they found out he was largely responsible for outsmarting the Nazis.”
World War II is a meaningful time in history for this family. It’s part of my genealogy. My paternal grandparents met during WWII. My grandfather was stationed in England where he met a tall red headed Brit, who became his wife. My Dad was born in Leicester on July 6, 1944. A year later he and my Grandma Cochrane boarded the Queen Mary and set sail for their new life in America, in Tulsa, Oklahoma to be exact.
That war is a part of my beginnings, a piece of my heritage. And what I received from that war was a couple who met and had a baby who would become my father and demonstrate friendliness to all walks of life, alike and different. Watching the story of Mr. Turing, emphasizes the character of my Dad who was born during that period, who displayed friendliness to all people. It was something I watched first hand.
My Dad understood the passage in Luke 7:36-50. He identified with that sinful woman who wet Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. Luke 7:47 NLT, ““I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”
A week before my Dad passed away, I was back in the burn center recovering from another surgery. Dad and I weren’t what I would consider to be normally physically affectionate. When I was younger he’d always hold my hand, and kiss me before I’d get out of the car for school, even at that adolescent age when kids try to avoid it. So it’s not that we never displayed affection, but we were reserved I guess you could say. But this particular night I wanted Dad right next to me. I asked him to come set on the bed with me. Keep in mind he was a large man, making it difficult to share a small space. Nevertheless, he maneuvered onto the bed and I asked him about a story I had never heard before, “Dad tell me about when you accepted Jesus. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that before.”
My Dad proceeded to tell me he was on a business trip, as was common when we were young. His work as a successful salesman required much time on the road. One evening he grabbed some fried chicken and a six-pack of beer, went back to the hotel, turned on the television and began to receive God’s Word through that screen. Now years of seeds had been sewn, but a harvest came in that evening when my Dad kneeled down in the solitude of a hotel room and asked the Lord to forgive him of his sins, come into his heart and be his Lord and his Savior.
My Dad died one week to the day after sharing that story with me.
Was it coincidence? Not at all. It was divine. I knew my Dad. I watched the spiritual journey he took. I observed him in his challenge of Romans 7:15 NIV “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” My Dad became a Christian later in life, and while we saw many moments of struggle, as is normal for new Christians who are growing in their spiritual maturity, I had the privilege of seeing his friendly nature touch many, many people. My Dad planted seeds and ministered to people that some Pharisees would be repulsed by.
Through his tax and accounting business, we had a clientele of ministry. The majority of our clients were bars, including gay bars and strip clubs. We did their bookkeeping and payroll, providing all of their tax and accounting services. I remember Dad hanging a prayer cloth in our waiting room. One lady who worked in a strip club had come in for us to do her personal income taxes. She sat there at a table we had in Dad’s office and she said, “I don’t know why, but every time I come here I just cry.” And it wasn’t because she was disappointed with her refund! Dad told her, “That is the presence of the Holy Spirit moving on your heart.”
I have such admiration for my Dad. Yes, he could be so hot headed, difficult to work with, difficult to please. He could yell, holler and carry on like none other. At times his fuse was shorter than any firecracker. But oh how I admire my Dad. He was incredibly intelligent. He was outside of the box. He looked at people as people. My Dad even had some critics at our church for the work he did, or rather the people he chose to work for. But that didn’t stop him. He continued to serve in our church and minister outside of it. And our Pastor took many opportunities to pop over to our office when a client there was wanting more than business information, but counseling, compassion and guidance.
I am so proud and so grateful for the legacy he left me. He was a friendly guy. And it was so genuine. And it was non-selective. Dad had been forgiven much and he wanted all people to know the grace and mercy God had given to him. Dad genuinely cared for people, alike and different.
Even now, nearly ten years after his death, I’m inspired by his friendliness to all people.
It’s what we keep saying to the kids, “Show yourself friendly.” No matter what. No matter who. Inspire Friendliness.
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