We Need Paul Petersons

Matt Schulte, Paul Peterson, and Phil Peterson (left to right). Photo Credit: Matt Schulte

My friend, Paul, is always the first one to like my status on Facebook. It doesn’t matter whether I’m posting about Scripture, the Crossroads youth group, a delicious meal, or the Seahawks (although I suspect the last part is because half of our team is hand-me-downs from Paul’s favorite team, the Vikings). At first, I thought that Paul’s quick trigger finger indicated his passion for social media, but I’ve since learned that it’s really showing his passion for people.

Paul and I first met at a Crossroads junior high summer camp. I was a bit surprised that my boss’s brother wanted to spend his vacation time (and his short time in the Northwest) wrangling a bunch of pre-teens, but we all came to find out that Paul wasn’t just tagging along. Though he wasn’t part of our year-round team, Paul quickly became essential to our team. He befriended a lonely, homesick kid who no one else truly noticed or patiently pursued. Instead of trying to be the coolest leader or the center of attention, he kept a look out for others in need and changed one student’s week (summer? year? life?) because of it.

The second time we met, Paul greeted me as a friend. Many of us hesitate to show our brotherly affection for acquaintances, worried that it will not be reciprocated or that we will discover we have been forgotten, but Paul was not afraid to have missed me. He made me feel remembered, known, and thus valued.

Even from halfway across the country (moving from Seattle to Boston didn’t really bring us any closer to Minnesota), Paul feeds our friendship with positive encouragement every day, liking my status. Some people “like” out of laziness or to show that they’re “in the know.” Because Paul is my friend, I know it’s not that way with him. Countless times, I honestly opened up online and Paul (digitally) smiled back, I notice, I’m listening, I care. 

We need more Paul Peterson’s. We need more men and women who embody the Apostle’s command: “Encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” We need more people who do less to cultivate what others think of them and more to cultive what others think of themselves.

So consider:

1. When you walk into a room, do you ask yourself, “Who would it most benefit me to gravitate towards?” or “Who could I most benefit by gravitating towards?”

2. When you interact in a public setting–perhaps a group conversation or online–do you guard what you say to keep from embarrassing yourself or guard what you say to keep from hurting others?

3. When others are praiseworthy, are you cautiously stingy with your encouragement, or do you selflessly build others up?

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