META4

I love to read vanity plates. I think it is the puzzle behind it. I see a group of letters and numbers and wonder what they can mean. Sometimes the jumble never does make sense. Other times, discovering the meaning is easy. I consider it a small personal triumph when I figure out the difficult ones. Vanity plates cover all kinds of ideas and purposes. For example, my parents have special dates, my in-laws use their initials, and my neighbor uses his hobby — WINEMKR. My other neighbor tips her hat to her kids and to her British background with the use of MUM on her plate. Businesses use vanity plates to advertise, and sports fans use them to promote their team. Can you guess which football team is represented by R8DERS? There’s a local PT Cruiser owner who seems to love Pleasanton; PTOWN PT is that car’s plate. And then there are the people who want you to know something about them, like HOTROD and DZNYFAN. I thought this statement on life was great: ITLE DU. Some plates require a fair amount of decoding such as 2MCHCO2 spotted on a Prius recently. RX4GAS was proudly sported by a Lexus hybrid. Or then there was the Hummer I saw with the plate that says, “<3S GAS” (and for those of you not completely hip on text talk, the ❤ symbol is for a heart as in “loves”). Then there was the car with the plate 2ME4ME – not gonna touch that one with a 10 foot pole! If I were ever to wander down the vanity plate path, I would choose META4 after my favorite literary device. Such fun! Maybe we should hold a contest to see who can come up with the best vanity plate rendition of Compassion Tea! Would it be CMPSHN T or CMPASONT or maybe, like our phone number, SHR TEAS!

We actually all have vanity plates, though, don’t we? I live in a part of the world where the tags on your jeans still say a lot about who you are – at least from an income-based, where you shop, how you spend your money perspective. The labels in my community range from how you feed your family (organic farm fresh or fast food), to where you vacation (Tahoe or Disneyland), from sports teams your kids play on (recreational or competitive), to the coffee shop you frequent (Starbucks or Peets).

A funny thing happened the other day. As a room mom, I am part of a team collecting money to provide gifts to our teacher throughout the year. A fellow mom saw me the other morning and said, “Money! I’ve got to get you money for the teacher gifts!” I assured her that she still had time and then she said, “When I saw you I thought ‘Money’!” What she meant to say was that the sight of me reminded her that she could donate to the class fund. What I heard was that the sight of me looked like money. It was particularly thought-provoking for me because I had on my (drastically reduced but still über-cool) new 7 for all Mankind black jeans and a matching top and was feeling good that I was actually “dressed up” and not in the “I just rolled out of bed and need to go work-out after this” uniform of my daily life. Is that what people see when they see me? Money?

The way we act, the things we say, our attitudes and responses are like license plates of identity. I don’t want people to look at me and see money. When I affirmed my faith in Jesus Christ as my personal savior, my dad and pastor gave me the Bible verse Matthew 5:16 – “Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” With God’s help, I’ve been striving, sometimes successfully, more often not so much, to live up to that verse. Yesterday, in church, the message was about what that looks like. In the New Testament, there are 27 one anothers… things we as Christians are to do to show God’s love in the world. I’ve attached the complete list so you can see the challenges this call presents.

All 27 of the one anothers found in the New Testament

Mandates like “Have equal concern for one another” and “Submit to one another,” like “Do not grumble against one another” and “Clothe yourself in humility toward one another” are not easy to follow through on, particularly after the election cycle we all just suffered through. But these are the tags, labels, vanity plates we should present to the world.

One label I am proud to carry with me is on my Compassion Tea tumbler. Whenever I hand out my card, wear my Compassion Tea shirt, brew a pot for a friend, or show up to an event with hot tea in hand, I am proud to tell people about what we are doing for the one anothers in Africa. I love that we’ve provided eyeglasses to grandmothers, sterile wound dressings to people with infected wounds that will require surgery once the infection is healed, ibuprofen and aspirin to people with fevers, antibiotics to people with infections, care to people deemed a drain on society, clean water and new sources of electricity, nurses to care, doctors who won’t accept the local government-run hospital’s assessment that a patient isn’t worth treating, and removal from enslavement, disease, and dismay through the work of CompassioNow and the clinics with which that organization partners. While the people in Africa are doing the serving, the carrying of one another’s burdens, their work would be impossible to complete without the support of those of us who make wise decisions about how we spend our money and who choose to buy with our consciences.

Compared to the rest of the world, we as Americans do look like “money” – even our poor look wealthy to a majority of the rest of the world. But if we used that label, that vanity plate, for the betterment of humanity… well, as I recently heard, that is the power of loving well.

I run the risk of sounding cliché in asking this, but I can’t stop myself. What does your vanity plate say about you?

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