Monday, March 31, 2014

The Least of These

"Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25:40)

The last few weeks, this verse has been on my mind a lot, along with the overall concept it's talking about. Whether you're religious or not, the message is the same: how we treat those who we view as being of little consequence reflects on our true character.

I would venture to say we've all had experiences where we've been treated poorly by someone because they didn't consider us important. I've certainly had my share of those experiences and continue to do so. The last few weeks it seems I've had quite a few. Obviously, I'm someone who falls into the category of "the least of these my brethren". I'm not famous, I don't have a lot of money, and outside my circle of friends and family, I'm an unknown. 99.9999% of the people who meet me have no idea who I am and likely won't ever interact with me again.

Two instances earlier this month really had this on my mind. I had the opportunity to sing the National Anthem for the Mid-American Conference Wrestling Championship as it was hosted by Kent State at the MAC Center. Prior to the meet, I was aware that one of the coaches for a fellow conference member school knows a family member who works at that school, so I figured I'd introduce myself. It ended up that there were actually two coaches that knew this family member, so I met both of them and had two completely different experiences.

Getting ready to sing and then singing at day 1 of the Mid-American Conference Wrestling Tournament, hosted by Kent State the second weekend of March. I ended up singing for three wrestling meets this season!

The first coach, I caught just after a match for one of his wrestlers, so I guess he was too focused on that or the adeneline was still flowing or something. Even so, I introduced myself and walked with him and asked if he knew my family member. He replied "yeah" and then I said something to the effect of "I saw that you all were coming that you knew [my family member] so I figured I'd say hello." His reply as he kept moving was "yeah, yeah," and he walked away. OK... Obviously, I wasn't someone of importance to this coach, even enough to give a minute to. My family member said this coach was very intense and focused and didn't take time to "chat", but it still had me thinking. I really don't care how "intense" or "focused" you are. It doesn't take a massive amount of effort to acknowledge someone and be polite even if you're rushed or really can't talk. A simple "it's nice to meet you" would suffice. If the person can't take a hint, "excuse me, I have to run, but nice to meet you" works. I was simply blown off, made all the worse by having previously observed him conversing quite cordially to those he knew better. So yeah, since I wasn't someone he knew and clearly wasn't someone "of consequence", no need to take any time to be polite. Not impressed. I remember thinking I was definitely the "least of these". Was he outright rude? No, but I know when I'm totally being blown off by someone.

Conversely, the next day (I sang both days of the tournament), I met one of the other coaches from the same school. This coach also knew my family member. Now, I recognize that in this meeting, I was standing on the floor getting ready to sing (whereas the day before I met the other coach in the lobby a good hour after I sang) and it was before play started (so nothing to distract him), but still, a much better meeting with this other coach. He took the time to acknowledge me and even "chat" a bit, especially once he realized the connection we had through my family member. We conversed no longer than two minutes. I was of the same "consequence" to him as the other, but what a difference.

I had some other experiences earlier in the month when I attended the Arnold Sports Festival Expo in Columbus. While there, I had the chance to meet some of the people I follow on social media. Now, I've mentioned a few of them in an earlier post and that while I follow them, I hardly elevate them to some kind of super-being. I also have some kind of standards for following, so I've continued to follow as I've seen their posts because they are largely positive, real, and if we somehow interact, it's also positive. As cool as that is, though, meeting in person is a completely different element to social media. Social media can give you a sense of how someone really is, but obviously, people can put on a facade. Granted, meeting in person briefly doesn't exactly give you a total glimpse of their character, but if they're willing to interact with fans in a positive way, that's a pretty good start and a lot better than most. Meeting in person is an important element to me. Social media is great and all, but face-to-face interaction is far more meaningful and important to me, especially for those I interact with more regularly. I realize that's not always possible with some of the more famous celebrities I follow (like professional athletes), nor would I ever expect a large amount of time, but for the vast majority of people, it's not out of the realm of possibility to meet briefly, whether it be in situations like the Arnold Expo, or I happen to be in the same town as that person due to travels and we do little more than converse for a minute or two and shake hands.

Those I met in Columbus thankfully did not disappoint. They all seemed very genuinely good people who appreciated the support of their fans, and heck, a few of them even recognized me from social media (mostly Instagram) interactions. Considering it was a day before my birthday, those little things made my day and really made the weekend a special one for me at a time when a lot isn't going as planned in my life, so it was very much appreciated!

The first place I went once I got to the Arnold Expo was I waited about 20 minutes to get into the Beast Nutrition booth since four of the people I followed were there. First guy I met was Greg Clausen...if I look short it's because he's 7'0. Great guy! I had seen some stuff about him well over a year ago and vaguely knew about him last year when he competed in one of the fitness competitions at the Arnold. I briefly saw him from a distance right after he competed last year and have a random picture, but I couldn't even remember his name. This year, though, mostly through Instagram, but also Twitter and Facebook, I've interacted a few times, so he even recognized me slightly. Heck, I even got a free t-shirt out of it! Score! I enjoy following Greg's social media posts because he mixes in a lot of humorous posts with those related to fitness and working out, plus he's not all about just pushing his product all the time. It's important to laugh, so I really appreciate those! Check him out on Instagram: @7footphysique; on Facebook: The 7 Foot Physique Competitor; and on Twitter: @7footbodybuilder
Next I met Amber Orton and her fiancee Brandan Fokken. I started following Brandan after following Greg, and then that led to Amber (Amber and Brandan are may have seen a meme they're featured in...), mostly through Instagram for both, and now Twitter too, and Facebook for Brandan (who manages three Facebook pages!). Both have been very friendly via Instagram and they knew who I was based on some of the comments I had made recently. Brandan even knew that my birthday was the next day. Again, small things that made the day a little more special. Like Greg, Amber and Brandan have a lot of humorous posts they share on social media that make me smile, plus they often post recipe ideas for people who may be looking to make changes in their diet. In other words, they make fitness seem like something that's attainable for us mere mortals :). Bonus points: I saw Brandan just before I left at the end of the day while everyone was packing up to leave and shook his hand and thanked him again. Again, very cordial and he wished me a happy birthday again. Class! Check them out on Instagram: @brandanfokken and @mishkadawn; on Twitter: @BrandanFokken and @amberdawnorton; and on Facebook: Team Athlete Brandan Fokken and Amber Dawn Orton- National Level Bikini Competitor/Fitness Model  

After going to the Blue Jackets game, I came back to the Beast booth and got a picture with Tobias Konechne, another great guy who I had been following on Instagram because of his connections with Greg Clausen, Brandan Fokken, and Amber Orton. Tobias was just kind of out in the booth (the others were behind tables), so it was easier for me to steal in and get a photo without having to wait in line again (the line to the Beast booth was long all day). Tobias isn't a super-active Instagram poster, but that's because he's pretty busy not only with his career, but his family too, which I think is awesome! Always happy to see dads who are proud of their kids! Check him out on Instagram: @tobiaskocnechne and on Twitter: @TobiasKonechne

Rob Bailey's booth for Flag Nor Fail literally had huge lines leading to it the entire day (mostly to get pictures with him and his wife Dana Linn), so I avoided it as long as I could. By the end of the day, though, it was either now or never and the line had died down a bit, so I figured I might as well! Just before I was near the front, Rob came around and personally talked with and greeted every person in line and thanked them for coming, so I was able to get this picture. It was a really nice gesture, especially considering how long they'd been working that day and that weekend. Soon after that I got a picture with the lovely Dana Linn Bailey (below). They both might look super tough and unapproachable, but the opposite was true. Not only are they grateful for the support, but they're genuinely nice and seemed to be really fun people; people that are easy to support. Look them up on Facebook: FLAG NOR FAIL; Instagram: @flagnorfail and @danalinnbailey; and on Twitter: @flagnorfail and @daydayKnucks

In the end, I strive as much as I can to treat people like I want to be treated, so I value when others follow the same Golden Rule. It sounds so simplistic, but really, so many problems in the world would be solved if people just thought about how their actions affect others and acted accordingly. Thanks to those I interact with, no matter where you are in life, who treat me with respect, but overall are just nice to me. Whether because of your belief in God, Karma, and/or you just want to be a nice person, how you treat the "least of these" is a reflection on your true character, not how you treat those you know or know of.

No comments: