A friend who lives down the street has an odd problem.  He’s getting a huge number of telephone calls recently – – almost all of them wrong numbers, asking for someone else, or just hanging up when his voice message answers. Why has this suddenly become a problem?  His phone number is just one digit away from being the number of a phone about four miles from us – – the phone number for Mike and Judy McCreery – – the parents of a suddenly famous young man named Scotty.

Garner, North Carolina is going out of its collective head for Scotty McCreery . . .the hometown boy made good, the local kid who’s on his way to stardom. Garner Magnet School student, school baseball team pitcher, grocery store checker – – oh, and the newest American Idol. At just before 10:00 last Wednesday night, Scotty’s life turned upside down, and it will never be the same.  Still a year from graduating high school, he now embarks on a career that will take him places he’s only dreamed about.  And judging by early reactions to his performances and personality, Scotty looks to become a long-time fixture on the country music charts.

My wife and I occasionally shop at the grocery store where Scotty was a checker/bagger, so maybe we’ve spoken with him somewhere along the way.  If we did, I guess that nothing about Scotty stood out enough to make us remember.  He was probably polite and helpful – – that seems to be his character.  But he would have been just one more person we ran across in the course of the day, and, like you, we don’t make it a habit to study them all. A person interacts with so many strangers so often, there’s no way to know who they are or where they’re going in life.

But when one of those strangers suddenly becomes a star, people come out of the woodwork wanting to be near that person, to try to bring him or her into their lives. I am amused by all the signs seen at the local events, held up by girls from 8 to 18, saying, “Scotty the Hottie”, and “Marry me, Scotty!” While Scotty is surely an attractive young man to some female eyes, I find it hard to believe that all these girls were flipping out over him as they passed through the grocery checkout . . . before he made it to the TV screen, anyway.

But that’s the way we are, isn’t it? So often, all it takes for us to care deeply about someone is a bit of fame, the long shot that a person with a big future might notice us and take us along for the ride.  That’s one of the reasons we have so much trouble caring much about “the least of these” – – they have little to offer our dreams.

And so we get all revved up about the newest American idol, whether we find him or her on the television screen, the concert hall, the radio, the movie screen. And we build that person up to levels of importance in our lives that are just wrong. And while we do that, we continue to interact with the strangers around us in the same old way, still not bothering to know who they are or where they’re going in life.

Maybe I could take the time to do better than that, once or twice a day.  I could say more than “Thank you” to the grocery store clerk.  I could notice her name, ask how her day has been, offer a genuine smile.  I could speak to the mother behind me, tell her how cute her child is, comment on how well behaved (or what a handful) the little one must be, compliment her on raising her child so well. There are so many ways to make a small impact on another person as we go through the day, so many opportunities to share the grace of God with them.

If we work harder at that, maybe we’ll find less need to try to attach our wagon to the latest big star . . . because we’ll be too busy building up all the little stars that are all around us.

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