The worthier the individual...

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"...the worthier the individual, the greater is his loss to the living. The more he meant to those about him--family, friends, community--the deeper the grief and sharper the anguish..." Rabbi H. Halevey Donin

At first, my response to this quote was, How true.

On second thought, I had to ask, Who decides an individual's worthiness?
How do we measure someone's worth and their contribution to "the living"?
How do we judge one man's service to the world as more valuable than another's?

I've known some amazing, faithful believers and prayer warriors who served and gave of themselves tirelessly, but they still passed away without much notice from the rest of the world. I'm sure most of us know people like this.

Dad was a nursing home chaplain for a while and he often told us how his heart broke for the seniors who were lonely, who rarely had visitors, if ever. Their closest loved ones had already passed on and their living relatives were either far away or emotionally distant or just too busy to visit very often.

But these seniors had done amazing and sacrificial things in their time and yet no more than a handful of people would ever know when they passed away. I wonder if our not celebrating these quiet, behind-the-scenes servants is our loss, not theirs.

What about younger people who also find themselves without scores of friends? Maybe they're just more introverted, shy, soft-spoken folks. Maybe God called them to serve Him behind the scenes. Maybe He called them to a kind of service that was more humble than flashy. Maybe He called them to give all of themselves in service to one needy person instead of many. There are a gazillion good reasons why some people just aren't popular and well-known.

Not everyone's funeral will pack a stadium or leave a gaping hole in their community. But does that determine their worth? I think you and I both know the answer to that already.

It would be really sad if we believed our worth came from how many people loved us, or if our worth was based on whether we met other peoples' expectations. God works in mysterious ways. It could be that some of the people who struggled through life unknown and un-celebrated by the world turn out to be among the 'greatest' in heaven. God's the only one who decides the worth of a person's life and contributions.

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. (1 Cor. 1:26-29)

Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matt. 23:10-12)