Several years ago I was privileged to travel to India for work. It took almost 24 hours to fly there, which is a long flight that was made more bearable as I was treated to business class due to company policy. It’s nice to be able to see a country like that on someone else’s dime. I spent the week traveling to and from the job site and the hotel with a close friend of mind who is a native of the country. India is a remarkable place. It must be one of the most populous countries per capita, although I won’t bother to check the facts on that. The colors, scents, faces, animals and food…oh the food…I pray everyone has the opportunity to travel to such a place, particularly those of us in Western culture. We silo ourselves into thinking that what we see around us is as the world must be even though we know better simply by watching the evening news. Often times we have to be intentional about thinking beyond ourselves and experiencing something as life altering as an international trip where our eyes can be opened to the wonder of creation. Seeing nature is one thing, but people, seeing the people, every child knit together in the womb and made in the image of God, that’s a whole other experience.
We had been there a few days and my friends laptop broke. Thankfully there was a company technology center in another part of the city, so we spent one late afternoon and evening working from another site while his laptop was repaired. When it was time to leave, I got to experience something for the first time that I only thought I knew about here in the States. Traffic. The best word I can think of here is stagnant. Nobody moved, ever. We had a driver dedicated to us for the week, and we all just sat in the car hoping for the guy in front of us to move. It seemed like he never would, but when he did, we moved inches. It was hardly worth celebrating.
After we sat there for a few minutes, there came a crowd of people walking the isles in the streets created by the lines of cars each waiting their turn to move. These were folks that I hadn’t yet seen as if they had been hidden from view. People that stay on the sidelines or out of the way as to not interfere with life. They stopped at every car, asked for something, anything, and then moved on to the next car after being rejected. I saw her coming; a young woman who I thought must be the mother of someone. I saw her approach the car as she came down the aisle; she wore dirty clothes and she never smiled.
I sat in the back of the car behind the driver. She found our car, stared me in the eyes and tapped on the window while motioning for food. I knew that I had to help. She felt pain and I could alleviate some of that pain. I was cautioned by my friend as to the amount, but I opened my wallet and gave her some of what I had, a 100 dollar bill. That converts to about $2, so in our terms it was insignificant, but to her, it was extravagant. And that turned out to seemingly be the mistake.
She rushed away with the money but no sooner had she gone then a swarm of people, mostly children, returned in her place. There was no need for them to walk through the rows of cars; they knew right where to go. The closest I had ever seen to anything like this was throwing food into a school of trout at the hatchery at Roaring River and watching them swarm. It was like that, but it was people. Each of whom is infinity more valuable than any fish. We were surrounded, and that’s when it started.
Tap, tap, tap, tap. A boy was standing outside my window holding his sister in his arms with one hand and tapping on the window with the other. I looked at him and saw his deep brown eyes, and I looked at her with longing to help but I felt powerless, empty as if there was nothing else that I could do. He tapped forever as the cars never moved. The tapping turned to banging which made the driver madder than a hornet. He got out and ran them off only to have them return once he got back in the car. The tapping was incessant, like nails in my heart and it never stopped until the traffic somehow cleared and we were able to drive away. I didn’t dare open the window. I tried to express my sympathy through it but to no avail. I tell myself today that there was nothing else I could have done. Over the years I think I had almost convinced myself that I had given all the money that I had to the woman, but I don’t think that is true either. I’m sure that I had at least another 500 ($10) on me, but giving that to them would perhaps have caused more of a rush. Or would it, and what if it did? For fear of my personal safety, I demonstrated the type of person that I least wanted to be, and it would haunt me still if I didn’t know that I was forgiven.
Praise be to God that there is another way. At home or abroad, there’s a better way, perhaps the only way, to truly help someone at the point of their affliction. It shouldn’t matter why a person is hurting, what only matters is that they are hurting and it’s our responsibility, no privilege, to step into their world and hurt along with them. To refuse to allow them to shoulder their grief on their own; ours is a shared ministry that forces the darkness to flee at the mention of the Light.
Today we had a visitor that brought us dinner. She was a kind soul, someone that has known Oliver for the past year yet someone that we had not met. She entered our home and immediately noticed the pictures of Kyleigh that we have on the mantel. She didn’t avoid talking about her, in-fact, she told us how beautiful she is and how deeply she felt for our family when she heard the news. Her words were genuine, her compassion sincere, and I believe that our grief is somehow lessened by folks like her that care enough to get beyond their own insecurities and grieve with our family. It does no good to come to our house to check-in with us yet not talk about her. Sure, we’ll most likely cry. We’ll remember again that she’s home and that we have a Kyleigh shaped hole in our heart that pours out at the mention of her name. But no matter how sharp that sting might be, we would rather have that then an hour or two sitting around chatting about the weather, or the news, or whatever else as if all of this is some kind of terrible dream from which we expect to awaken. I’m watching the grass grow on her grave; she’ll not wake and we’re comforted when people recognize her, acknowledge our grief and share in our healing.
This is what God does for all of His children that are in pain. If we profess this faith, then it’s our opportunity to use His actions as a model for which we can emulate. We’ll not always be successful, that’s a guarantee, but we must remember that we’re not called to be successful; we’re called to be faithful. For the love of God, get out and help. If not us, then find someone that is hurting and enter into their world far enough to share a measure of their burden. I wish I would have done that for those children in India. The next time I go, you can bet I won’t be sitting here four years later wondering what would have happened if I would have cared enough to get out of that car and reach out to them knowing that little girl is someone else’s sweet Kyleigh.
Enough of this superficial behavior! Let us love our neighbor and help each other. It truly doesn’t matter who they are or what they’ve done, or what their pain is. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28) At the end of the day, either you believe this stuff or you don’t. And if you believe, then you’re not at liberty to apply certain passages of the Scripture and not others simply because of the way they make you feel. Yes, you might feel uncomfortable. Yes, you’ll be misunderstood as people will question your motives. And yes, you might just make a fool of yourself. Others will scoff, and at some point, you’ll probably feel as if the world is after you. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” (1 Peter 4:12-14)
All honor and glory and power to Him that is worthy, now and forever. Amen.