Reflection: Shunning Over-Familiarity

Today we reflect on “Shunning Over-Familiarity” from “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas A. Kempis. We are told not to open our hearts to everyone we meet, instead we need to use discretion. Many of us like to mingle with the rich and famous, or people younger than us. We feel like we are getting something from them, maybe some special knowledge or an infusion of “young blood” that will make us better people. We think we are pleasing them with our presence when in reality, we are not. Rather they are looking to find our faults and then find a way to use them against us.

We should associate with “the humble and the simple”, those who don’t need to surround themselves with material goods and who need to be praised for their deeds. After all, we are what we surround ourselves with.

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As I was reflecting on this I began thinking of this: How many times have you run across someone who wants to tell you about their personal lives? They feel the need the share every minute detail. This seems to be especially true when you are in the waiting room of the Doctor’s office. They need to share every little detail about every ache and pain. I have also noticed two other places where this seems to be true as well: the pharmacy and before Mass.

Like I imagine with most of us, my first thought is to run the other way. Don’t make eye contact, to acknowledge these people, just move away. But then I thought maybe this is a chance to help someone, maybe to share a little Gospel? I work for a social service agency working with the mentally and emotionally challenged. Before I began this nice cushy desk job I drove one of the vans we use to pick up clients, bringing them to our building and then home. Seeing some of the places some of our clients live, it dawned on me that I might be the only person they meet all day who has a smile for them, a nice word to say. When I would bring them home, I thought I might be the only one who cared about them until I picked them up the next day. I didn’t know anything about their home lives, but at times I would observe things sometimes leading me to believe as I did.

This could very well be the case with those who feel the need to talk to us in the waiting room, the pharmacy and before Mass. They may not have anyone else. They may leave the church and go home to an empty house with no family. In today’s world families are scattered all over the place. It isn’t easy to just pop in for a visit when your children live 3,000 miles away.

I suppose you are wondering how this fits in with “Shunning Over-Familiarity”? Kempis tell us “Associate with the humble and the simple, with the devout and virtuous, and with them speak of edifying things”. This is a chance to lend a caring ear to someone who just might need a little compassion. A few kind words can go a long way. Christ tells us to love our neighbor, he doesn’t say to love only the ones who don’t complain or share all their health issues with us.

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