PresentsHave you ever played the Dirty Santa game? Some people call it the White Elephant Gift Game. Gifts are typically inexpensive, humorous and used items from home.

The participants certainly determine if the game is going to be hilarious or just pass time. For instance, I remember attending one Christmas party where a guy forgot we were doing the gift exchange, so he took a grocery bag outside with him to find his treasure. The individual who happened to open it got a rock. Made me think of The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown when all the other children got candy and Charlie Brown repeatedly says,

I got a rock.”

Sometimes a participant will bring a really nice gift for the mix just to cause people to steal from one another. Other times people will wrap a beautiful package only to find a plunger inside.

The bottom line is, you cannot judge the gift you receive by the wrapping. Or to quote a more common phrase,

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.”

The same can be said for people. According to the business word, it takes seven seconds to make a first impression. That’s not a lot of time and most people haven’t said a word in those seven second. According to an article in Forbes,

The moment that stranger sees you, his or her brain makes a thousand computations: Are you someone to approach or to avoid? Are you friend or foe? Do you have status and authority? Are you trustworthy, competent, likeable, confident?

And these computations are made at lightning speed — making major decisions about one another in the first seven seconds of meeting.”

Read more about this here.

Seven seconds isn’t a lot of time to tear through the wrapping of an individual and see what’s inside. When we make snap decisions about others and pass on the opportunity to get to know them, we may be passing on some of the greatest blessings God sends our way.

I don’t believe in coincidences. In fact, I love the phrase that says,

Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.”

I tend to view our scheduled meetings and our chance encounters as God divine appointments. He brings people into our lives for a reason.

Some people are brought to us because of what we can do for them or give to them. Others are brought to us because of what we can learn or receive from them. Either way, there’s more to the encounter than initially meets the eye.

Do you think it was happenstance that Phillip was traveling down the very road an Ethiopian eunuch was traveling while reading scripture trying to make heads or tails of it [Acts 8:26-39]? What about the travelings walking down the road to Emmaus [Luke 24:13-33]?

God wastes nothing, including our time .

When He brings people into our lives, there is purpose in it.

To pass on getting to know them, no matter how hard their wrapping may be, how ugly it may be, or how difficult it is to get through, means we’re passing on a blessing from the Lord.

I have met some interesting people in the anti-trafficking movement, both survivors and front line workers. Many aren’t easy to love at first. They’ve been wounded, used, abused, and have put up walls to protect themselves. In many cases it has taken months and even years to get to know the real person inside. The investment of time, patience, and transparency has yielded some beautiful friendships I treasure.

Just like you don’t need to always pass over the simply wrapped presents or less desirable looking ones, you should also not pass over the people you encounter who are hard to love. You just may find a diamond in the rough.