Trees, ATMs, and People

Published on October 4, 2009 by CT in Blog, Twexplanation


Trees, ATMs, and People

Sometimes, 140 characters needs more explanation…

Tweet:  3 types of people: 1) scenery (pass us by), 2) machine (serve us like ATMs), 3) people.  I want to see, really see, more people people.

It’s always fun to categorize the world into types of people, like “there are two kinds of people in the world:  men and women;” or “there are two kinds of people in the world:  Christians and non-Christians;” or “there are two kinds of people in the world:  Elvis fans or Beatles fans.”  I’m not sure why this is fun, but it is, so I’m going with it for now.

I have borrowed this current type of people paradigm from Jamie Winship, an evangelist and missionary to the Middle East for more than 20 years.  He said there are three kinds of people in the world:  scenery, machines, and people.  The paradigm goes like this:

Scenery people are the hundreds of people that pass us peripherally throughout our day.  These may be our neighbors we don’t notice as we get into our cars, or most of the people in line at Starbucks, or the co-workers along our walk to our office or cube.  Scenery people are like trees; we are aware of their presence, and if they all suddenly disappeared, we might suspect an invasion of locusts had occurred, or a firestorm had ravaged through the area (I guess more so for the trees than the people).  But we don’t normally notice them.

Machine people are the tens of people that we interact with on a daily basis without really interacting.  These are the cashiers at our morning coffee shop, or the rental car return guy, or the toll booth employee.  Machine people are like ATMs; we simply make transactions with them.  We might even engage in pleasantries with them, asking how they are and saying we are fine.  But we don’t really interact with them.

People people are the rare people we truly engage throughout our days.  These are the friends we are interested in, or the co-worker we’ve been praying for who shares part of their story with us, or the person who asks how our day is going and gets an honest answer.  We interact meaningfully with people people, but we do so infrequently.

Jamie told us a story about a machine person he knew for a year.  She was the clerk at 7-11 where, when he was a DC-area cop, he stopped each morning.  One night he responded to a call, where he found this girl with a stab wound in her stomach.  Her blood was all over her shirt and the ground, and Jamie started treating her while he waited for the paramedics to come.  When they finally showed up to take her away in the ambulance, Jamie asked them if she would make it.  “Probably not,” was their reply.  He began thinking of all the chances to share the gospel with her that had slipped by.  As the paramedics put her on the stretcher, one of them looked back at Jamie and said, “Hey, be careful—her blood is on your hands.”

That was a sobering statement for Jamie to hear.  Even though it wasn’t meant in the way it was received, it puts people into perspective.  All people are people people, if only we had God’s eyes to see them in this way.  So my prayer has been to see more people people, to see them through God’s eyes, because more is at stake here than getting through the line faster or getting the correct change.

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  • Bina

    An amazing analogy of people…and now I sit here wondering which scenery and machine people are ones that need to switch catagories in my heart.
    Thanks for this…