The morning I was scheduled to write these comments, the “Dilbert” cartoon in the business section of the paper proved to be appropriate for my subject. Dogbert, the public relations specialist, is addressing one of the company managers. He says, “The public hates you for all the right reasons. I’ll repair your public image by photographing you serving meals in a homeless shelter.” The manager asks, “Is the public really that dumb?” and Dogbert replies, “Yup, I’ll have you out of there in two scoops and a click.”

No, Dogbert, the public isn’t really that dumb — well, not everyone anyway. Most people can tell when someone is demonstrating genuine compassion and concern and when someone is simply engaging in a photo op. And what applies to individuals also applies to the Church of Jesus Christ and to local congregations. People know if we care or if we are just good at public relations.

This Saturday the Parkway family has a chance to participate in an event that could easily be little more than a photo op. On a “Day of Service” we will work alongside our ministry partners at Norcross Cooperative Ministry, do a few projects for some of our members, and collect materials for clean-up buckets to be sent to areas devastated by the recent hurricanes. In practical terms we won’t accomplish very much. We won’t end world hunger; we won’t bring reconciliation among the races; we won’t stop global warming. And, from the outside looking in, the whole project could look like a frail attempt to rehabilitate the image of an institution that is rightfully charged with being overly self-centered.

On the other hand, by working with NCC we can show a few of our neighbors that we really care and we can realize that there are those with whom we rub shoulders every day who have so much less than we. By collecting and sending items for relief of those who have suffered so much we can come to grips in some small way with the seemingly insurmountable task of climbing back out of the muck, and show them we care.

And, perhaps most importantly, by these small acts of kindness we can be jogged out of our lethargy and moved not just to other small acts, but to a lifestyle of service in which we, in imitation of our Master, take on the form of servants and become involved in showing God’s love to all whom we meet.

In some ways, we won’t do a lot on Saturday, but it’s a good start — and I hope you will join us.