Friday, March 23, 2012
We've all heard it before, probably many times: The best cure for what ails you is helping someone else. I know this to be true, but a speaker at church last Sunday brought it home to me on a whole new level. I'm not sure if it's what he said or just that I was ready to hear (probably a combination of both), but I did want to share a couple of his experiences with you.
The first of these happened one morning at a fast food restaurant on his way to work. He walked in, ordered breakfast and sat down, noting an odd-looking woman in the far corner. She wore several coats, had multiple hats on her head, and wasn't particularly clean. What's more, she mumbled to herself in a way that was clearly prompting people to keep their distance. Every other customer in the place was seated as far away from her as possible. At first, our speaker followed suit, but then he got what he called an "impression" to go over and have breakfast with her. He quickly shot down that idea in his own mind, determined to enjoy his breakfast without company. No such luck. Despite his reticence to comply, the persistent thought remained, becoming stronger and more intrusive until he finally decided Someone upstairs must be telling him something. Feeling awkward and uncomfortable, he picked up his food, walked over to the woman's table, and asked if he could eat with her. She nodded; he sat down, and they had a conversation for the next half hour. She spoke non-stop about her life as if no one had listened for years, as if she were starving to be heard. And, to his surprise, being the hearer felt good. When the time came for him to go to work, he excused himself with a smile and shook her hand. He particularly remembers the look on her face and the warm feeling between them. He never saw her again but often thought of her as he visited that same fast food restaurant.
Our speaker's second experience also occurred at a fast food restaurant. (Maybe he needs to branch out into some healthier food choices!) Be that as it may, he was sitting next to a man who had apparently seen him pause briefly before eating his lunch. The man asked, somewhat hesitantly, if he had been blessing his food. Surprised that his activity was so obvious to an onlooker, our speaker nodded that yes, he had been praying. Clearly moved, his questioner said quietly that it was nice to watch someone saying grace. In almost the same breath, he confided that his wife had died the week before. His grief was so palpable that it enveloped both of them, and they cried together.
Simple stories, both, but they touched me. Would I sit with the homeless woman? Would I cry with the grieving stranger? I fear that I would not, even if the Lord prompted me. My inclination is to stay away from people who appear dirty or unkempt; and I rarely speak, other than in passing, to men I don't know. Not that I want to throw caution to the wind or abandon good sense and appropriate wariness, but does my fear keep me from making meaningful connections with people around me? Am I missing opportunities to bless and be blessed?
One last story for all of you: Leo Buscaglia was asked to judge a contest where the "most compassionate" child would be chosen, based upon stories of caring or service submitted by parents, relatives, or friends. A child of four won, one whose elderly neighbor had just lost his wife. Peeking through the fence and seeing the old man in tears one day, the little boy went through the gate, climbed up on the widower's lap, and sat there for a time. Later, his mother asked the child what he had said. Surely his answer must resonate with every one of us: "Nothing, I just helped him cry."
We can help, too. I can help. And not just because it feels good. But because it IS good.
"Wherefore, comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do."
1 Thessalonians 5:11