Thursday, July 07, 2005

That's what we're supposed to do

Driving from work to an AA meeting this evening, I was listening to NPR's coverage of the London attacks when it seemed I heard Jesus speaking on the radio. Amidst all the discussion, there was a brief (but extraordinary) interview with a 94-year-old Red Cross worker, who had walked many blocks to show up and be of service at one of the hospitals treating the wounded.

The interviewer asked her what made her walk all those blocks, at her age. "Yes, well, I rather expect that's what we're supposed to do - don't you?" she said, clearly expecting an affirmative response. "You just show up and do what you can to help calm people down a bit. Even a nice cup'a tea helps, I s'pose..."

There was more of the interview, but I don't remember much else of it - perhaps because I'd heard all the testimony I needed already. This woman, just a hair shy of twice my age, didn't know what was needed; didn't wait to be asked; didn't wait for a message from a calling tree, or an email from her pastor or accountability partner. She heard there was trouble, got up, and walked to where there was a need - and then did her best to meet it.

Two things kept echoing in my mind as I drove south. The first was a very simple prayer: "God, make me more like that." The second was a question...

"What would the world look like if this woman's attitude was the response of every person who calls themselves a Christian? If we - you, me, all of us - could just set down the scales of righteousness and let go of the self-appointed role of Heaven's gatekeepers, and just take care of people who are in need? What would that look like?"

Well, a quick glance at the end of Matthew 25 tells me that it would look like the Kingdom of God.

I have no idea whether this anonymous Red Cross grandma believes in Jesus Christ as her personal savior, or has said "the sinner's prayer," or anything else. I don't know if she even believes in God. To me, it doesn't matter at all. The improbable picture of a 94-year-old women walking through the melee of post-attack London to be of service is one I hope to hold onto for a while as a "gold standard" of what it should mean to be a God-follower in this world.

The first time I remember experiencing that kind of love for one's neighbor was almost 27 years ago. My dad died in August, 1978, after an ugly struggle with cancer. We arrived at my dad's brother's farm outside of Hornell, NY about midnight the night after he died for the memorial service. Already, people from farms "up and down the hill" had brought everything we could need - food for an army, folding chairs, you name it. And it continued the next morning - as I dragged myself downstairs, one of my uncle's neighbors had just dropped off what could only be described as a pile of fresh sausage...and his was obviously not the first delivery of the morning.

When I introduced myself to him, I thanked him for what he brought, but asked him why the extravagant outpouring? He looked at me, and smiled, and said, "Son, when one of us up here on the hill runs into trouble, that's just what we do. We bring what we can, and we do what we can. That's just our way."

Lord God, let that be my way, too. Let that be "just what we do."

In the face of hatred, in the face of pain and loss and disaster, in the face of everyday struggles to suit-up-and-show-up to life, let me think like that, and act like that. I sure don't always live to that standard, Lord - but I'd sure appreciate your help to get closer to it.

Send your comfort, endurance and strength to those who mourn the death of loved ones, to those who have suffered injury and trauma, and to those who labor to help, heal, protect and restore. In the midst of pain, loss, and chaos, let them know You are there, and they are not alone.

Amen.

9 comments:

Hope said...

What an example that woman is. I want to be like that too. God help me. While I am still over half her age.

Just over a year ago my brother in law was run over by a friend who was drunk. At first the details of how he died were unclear because the friend left him there and took off. You can imagine in a small, remote community how gossip raged. But we were overwhelmed by the genuine caring and love in action extended to us and the whole family(10 siblings and parents.) I was taught by these people what you do when someone is in need. You show up. It still makes me teary. We make it so complicated and it is so simple.

Love your blog.

Rick said...

Wow, brother. That is a great post.

"It's just what we do." I was thinking about that... it is simple and doesn't require much thought... it's just what we do.

I guess ist could be called "compassion"-- to suffer with. IT requires me putting aside SELF and enter into the world of another, even if it only to help calm someone down by offer tea.

Great post. Something I definitely needed to read! Thank you...

Allison said...

Beautiful post, Steve -- now I'm sorry I wasn't listening more closely to NPR yesterday evening!

Yes, that's exactly what I'd hope to become like someday. It's just what I do...

How powerful if Christians all did that, indeed.

Michael said...

This story reminds me of my parents, not that they have ever found themselves in circumstances so dramatic. Yet they have consistently and persistently just done the right thing over the years in a way that edifies, inspires and sometimes embarrasses me for failing to show nearly the selfless generosity that seems to come naturally to them. What is remarkable is that they are just people, surrounded by people who act much like them. I see it in some of my younger cousins (all adults by now, of course) and the way they treat their own neighbors and their older relatives. My family and I see few things from the same perspective, perhaps especialy matters of faith. I would not turn to them for a better theological understanding of the Mysteries. But I could do far worse than turning to them for lessons on how to live in the mystery of daily life.

Monk-in-Training said...

God, make me more like that

Amen, Amen, Amen

TN Rambler said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
TN Rambler said...

Steve,
Thanks again for a(nother) thought provoking post. Hope you don't mind that I've linked to it.

Wayne

Lorna said...

God make me more like that too.

This was an excellent post. Tx

Lorna said...

Hi
I linked to this on my site. but I couldn't work out how to link directly to this entry. Help would be appreciated :) for the future!!