We were rolling to the gate after a long flight to San Francisco when I asked the man sitting next to me if he and his family were on vacation.
"Yeah, we are," he answered. "My wife and I have been here before and we want the kids to see it."
We chatted for a bit about all there is to see in the Bay Area and then he asked, "How about you? Are you on vacation?"
"Yep, but we're just here to see one site: my son, his wife, and our three grandchildren," I said. "They just had a new baby and we get to meet her for the first time."
I could sense his fear -- fear that I was about to pull out grandkid pictures. But I do have filters I can engage when I have to be socially appropriate. Usually. OK, sometimes.
I'm pretty sure this guy thought it was kind of crazy to travel all the way from South Carolina to San Francisco and not care a whit about sightseeing while we're there. Forgo seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, Muir Woods and Fisherman's Wharf to instead change diapers, cook meals, rock a baby and place ourselves at the playtime mercy of our energetic 2- and 3-year-old grandkids?
Yep, in a skinny minute. We traveled there to see these people we love, not places and stuff.
I need to keep that perspective all the time. People are what matter, and if my life ever becomes all about places or stuff or issues, I've lost my way, and more importantly, God's way.
It seems like Jesus always saw people where others saw only sin, scandal, labels, obstacles or annoyances. He perfectly modeled what He called the two greatest commandments: loving God and loving others.
Sounds easy, but it's not. And it's getting harder, it seems, in this world where contentious, divisive issues keep springing up like weeds. Rotten, prickly weeds that try to choke out every bit of love, compassion and goodness on this planet. If we're not careful, those weeds -- those issues -- can grow so big that they completely block our view of the real people peeking out from behind them.
Last month, I wrote a column dealing with the issue of gender identity, certainly a hot-button issue in our culture. A high school classmate of mine took issue with that column and felt I was being insensitive to people like her cousin, who underwent surgery to change his gender.
Her message was a good reminder to me that issues are never just issues. Ultimately, they are about people. People with names and stories. People who are individually, passionately loved by the God who created them. People we're called to love.
I haven't changed the stance I took on the issue of gender identity, but I confess that when I wrote that column, I was focused on the issue itself, not on the people for whom it is very personal and painful.
Jesus never compromised truth as He loved people, and neither should we. Truth and love are not mutually exclusive. In fact, one without the other can't accomplish God's purposes or accurately reflect His heart. We'll never perfectly balance the two the way Jesus did, but we should try.
I wonder how different our country would look right now if we could see every politician, every police officer, every member of another race, and everyone with whom we disagree as real people and not as simply a hindrance or help to our personal agendas?
God has promised that those who believe in Christ will have all eternity to enjoy glorious sites beyond our imagination. But for now, for here, it's about seeing Him and the people He created in His image.
Crum (maryanncrum.com) lives in Abbeville and is the author of two books, "A Giggle Goes a Long Way" and "Live.Learn.Laugh!" She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.