Shane's BIG Blog
photo credit: Molly Whisler
I never asked to be big. Cheeseburgers notwithstanding.
But I am.
I’m 6’7’’ and 340 pounds of BIG. And I’ve learned to be big for the right reasons now, and you can join me. Not in dimensions, but in stature for others.
Not my birth, but my size (my mom tells me) kind of played a role in being an only child. It was a big battle and a long journey to get here, and it took a while for me to shift the focus from my self-consciousness to being conscious for others.
I was painfully shy and uncomfortable being such a tall and then skinny youngster. Always head and shoulders above my classmates, even the girls in seventh grade. Actually, like so many of us, I may have just been self-conscious of simply being a human in public!
Okay, that’s almost enough about me.
The point is that we can all learn to be BIG for the vulnerable. We can be BIG for folks even temporarily weakened. BIG as in advocates, caregivers, backers, anti-bullies. Jesus sent us the Advocate. What an awesome name for the Holy Spirit!
We can rely on the Spirit and, in turn, others can rely on us. That is, unless we are woefully codependent, which would be another blog entry...
In crowds or uncertain situations, people feel safe around me. Heck, even with no real self-defense skills I feel safe around me. That’s true all the way back to a dark alley in Istanbul during the summer of ’87. (Yet another blog.)
More than half of my secret to feeling “safe” has to do with how I enjoy other humans of every kind, shape and accent. Even William, who hangs out a Park Lane and Greenville Avenue, and seems loud and agitated. He isn’t angry like he appears. That’s just his external mode. Sure, he could benefit from some mental and physical health care, but I enjoy talking to him – although, I’m NOT calling on YOU to engage him.
However, we are called to be an advocate for the poor, the oppressed and the depressed. Folks in this congregation live this calling. We have many different ways of responding to the call. One’s ways need not resemble another’s ways of advocating. And I know many of your ways never see the light of day. Bless you in your modesty or even invisibility.
When you feel stressed by the person panhandling, consider their back story. No, you cannot know it, but even imagining one might bring their humanity to your heart. It can be terribly awkward to engage or avoid eye contact with such folks, but talk to me or email me about it. I choose to give a snack and a dollar. If you don’t, that’s fine. And you certainly don’t have to do anything if you feel unsafe.
In fact, we are called to be advocates for those humans who themselves feel unsafe or overtly threatened. Below is an image that offers a step-by-step process for engaging a vulnerable person when a bully is present.
First, you NEVER engage the bully.
As always, humans are unpredictable, and you may choose to dial 911 instead, but look at this guide as it can be adapted for other situations. Show it to your friends or children and talk about it tonight!
Stay BIG for the right reasons, my friends. And, ask others to join you.
For additional information and a video example of the above situation, take a look at this BuzzFeed article.
Rev. Shane Whisler serves at Parish Associate at NorthPark Presbyterian Church. He holds a journalism degree from Oklahoma University and attended Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Together with his wife, he has two thoughtful teenagers and a menagerie of animals.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. You are big both inside and out! We look forward to having you and your family in our church family.
I have and always have had a heart for the homeless the downtrodden the abused and can honestly appreciate where you are coming from. Can't wait to see what's next! You are truly a blessed man with a blessed family.