Recently when our two younger grandkids were at the house I walked in and playfully shouted, “Look! It’s Monkey One and Monkey Two!” Anna, who is 2-1/2 years older than Noah, immediately informed me that she is Monkey One. I laughed at the time but I realized how important it is for her to know (and remind all others) that she is first in all things. Little brother, although loved, is always second. Let there be no mistake about it: she is Monkey One.
This little episode got me thinking about how much importance we place on position, title and hierarchy in our world. And how little it really matters in the grand scheme of things. But we love our titles, whether earned or honorary. In a country with no monarchy we still pay deference to the chief, the bishop, the doctor, the professor, the maestro.
We love to rank people according to their (perceived) worth: Executives, Management, Support Staff, Hourly Workers, Temporary Labor. It’s not enough that people are paid well (or not) but they must also have a title that befits their status in society. I know folks that would take a pay-cut for the right job title. I suppose inside some of us live five year-olds who desperately still need to be “Monkey One”.
The people that I most admire are those individuals who are secure enough that titles really become secondary to the life that they live. I knew a priest that scoffed at the idea of one day possibly being elevated to monsignor (an honorary designation). He said Jesus was called teacher; not priest, bishop or pope. This humble priest would be honored to be remembered as a teacher. Dignity doesn’t come from titles or where we finish in the race or how many votes we get or how much money we make. Dignity is given to us from God.
And I believe that we abuse that gift when we spend too much time comparing ourselves to one another. At times it is extremely hard to love and value the unlovable and unworthy (especially when I’m looking in the mirror). But isn’t that exactly what we are called to do? I struggle every day to follow Jesus’ instruction to love another.
And it’s especially hard to do when I’m judging everyone else’s place at the table…