Years ago, a university student in a strange city and quite inexperienced in the ways of the world, I yearned to find new friends. Because several of the people I met were enthusiastic about an upcoming revival, I thought I would find out what it was like. One result was that I met some people my age who seemed quite interested in me and I was thrilled when one of the girls said she would come to visit me.

In due time, she did indeed come to visit. We sat around in the living room and talked about the things that girls talk about when suddenly she said, “Now then...” and pulled her red-letter bible from her purse. That’s when I discovered that she was interested in me as a potential “notch on her conversion belt”, not as a friend.

It was my first, though alas not my last, conscious experience of being accorded worth because of being useful to someone.

Ever since then, I have thought a great deal about how we determine the worth or value of individuals and how much impact this has on how we relate - or don’t - to these others.

Do we decide this on our own or do we accept someone else’s (society’s) definition of what constitutes worth Is it based on how much like me the other person is Does the winner of one of the Idol shows have more worth than the ‘losers’ Or the CEO whose salary is 400 times more than his workers Are financial worth and access to power the major criteria for determining worth

A mother of a slain American soldier has written: “Everyone assumed that only a few hundred soldiers would die and that the loss of a few hundred soldiers was going to be just a drop in the bucket. My son’s life was valued as that - a drop in the bucket.” (Quote from “When Will We Know That Enough Americans Have Died” by Jane Bright, published on Jan. 23 at

Obviously her son’s worth was greater to the mother than that. Does her son have greater worth than the unknown son of the unnamed Iraqi mother Is he of value only to his mother and family, or do we, too, acknowledge him as a child of God Assuming we acknowledge these others as fellow children of God, does this affect how we care for them

Do we care first for those we know Do we leave certain things to those we deem saintly such as Abbé Pierre who championed the homeless in France, or international humanitarian organizations in Darfur or Webequie (northern Ontario)

These are complicated questions to which I have only glimmers of answers. Luckily for us, Christ’s disciples wrestled with these questions, too, both when they argued on the way to Capernaum over who was the greatest and when confronted by Jesus’ response (Mark 9: 33-37).