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Keith Wishum: What people see

She watched his every move.

She was only 4 and was the daughter of one of several co-workers invited to a company dinner party. Seated at the table across from one of the managers, she continued to stare at him. Her bright blue eyes locked on him, leaving him no escape.

The manager checked his tie. No problem there. He wiped his mouth with a napkin, thinking perhaps he had food on his face. Nothing. He patted his hair, but found no hair out of place. Still she stared.

He tried for several minutes to ignore the little girl and enjoy his meal, but her unrelenting stare unnerved him. Finally, it was just too much, and he demanded, “Why are you staring at me?”

The table fell silent. All the guests had seen her stare and wondered themselves what the explanation would be.

In her sweet, innocent voice she said, “I just wanted to see what it looks like when you drink like a fish.”

Who should be more embarrassed in that situation? The girl’s mother? Or the man? Obviously, this man had established a reputation for himself as a heavy drinker. That might have been an unfair perception, but probably not. He may have had many good characteristics, but this was the one that stood out.

Here’s a good question: What kind of reputation are we building?

If we aren’t careful, we may become known for some undesirable trait. People may describe us as the one who complains about everything. Or, “He’s the guy with the really foul mouth.”

Of course, we also have the opportunity to build a good reputation. We’ve all heard people described in glowing terms: “Old Joe would give you the shirt off his back.” Or, “Fran is the salt of the earth; always got a smile.”

Day by day, you and I create an impression of ourselves in the minds of others. By what we do and say in everyday situations, we can sculpt that into an ugly image or a beautiful portrait. It’s our choice.

Long ago, the wise king Solomon wrote, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1). Silver and gold are spent and gone. A good reputation will open doors for a lifetime and even for generations to come.

People are watching. What do they see in you?

Keith Wishum is minister, Williams Road Church, Americus.