Steady rains had transformed the hardened terrain of our backyard into a soaked softness. Walking outside, I felt the coolness of the water and mud squishing between my toes. Our dogs had been digging in a small area, so I decided to move a few cement blocks to block the patch of ground from their reach. My work left me covered with moist dirt and grass. Deciding to wash before heading indoors, I watched the clear stream of water make my skin clean once again.
Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arch communities, has spent his life loving those often ostracized by society. L’Arch creates living communities for those with disabilities or those who, because of their need for intense care, would be institutionalized if they didn’t have such a home. Vanier talks about how the communities are centered around the most basic acts of caring for the physical body—bathing, dressing, and feeding residents who can’t do those things on their own.
When Tom Carlisle told his parents he didn’t wantto attend his high school’s prom (formal dance), they understood. Tom is a young man with special needs, and he knew he wouldn’t be comfortable in that social setting.
I first experienced the beauty of the global body of Christ when I traveled from South Africa to Malaysia as a teacher. In that country, with its varying religions and cultural beliefs, I found a spiritual home away from home. From the moment I stepped into the little church down the road, I was warmly welcomed and treated like family. Thousands of kilometers away from where I grew up, I met people with the same spirit and the same love for Jesus.
Stephen Crane’s story “The Open Boat” tells the tale of four men attempting to survive in a lifeboat at sea. One of the men ironically reflected on a poem he had read as a schoolboy about a soldier fighting in Algiers. The man realized that “he had never considered it his affair that a soldier of the Legion lay dying in Algiers, nor had it appeared to him as a matter for sorrow. It was less to him than breaking of a pencil’s point.” He hadn’t felt compassion for the soldier—until now.
In 1993, Bill and Susie Mosca founded an essay contest. The winner received the couple’s bed and breakfast facility. Janice Sage’s entry took first place and she acquired the Center Lovell Inn and Restaurant. After 22 years of hosting guests, maintaining buildings, and managing finances, Janice wanted to retire. Because, as she said, “There are a lot of talented people that . . . . just can’t go out and buy an inn like this,” she also decided to give it away to a worthy person through an essay contest.
Author and psychologist Madeline Levine once met with a 15-year-old girl who was “bright, personable, highly pressured by her adoring, but frequently preoccupied . . . parents.” Levine recognized the girl’s “cutter disguise”—a long-sleeve T-shirt pulled halfway over her hand with an opening torn in the cuff for her thumb. When the young girl pulled back her sleeve, Levine was startled to find what the girl had carved into her forearm: “EMPTY” . . . sadness and confusion personified.
In June 2014, Hunter Gandee strapped his 7-year-old brother Braden on his back and walked 40 miles. The duo faced the energy-sapping trio of heat, rain, and muscle fatigue. So why take the grueling trek? Fourteen-year-old Hunter wanted to raise awareness of cerebral palsy by doing that they called the Cerebral Palsy Swagger. Due to the effects of the muscular malady, young Braden can’t walk without assistance.
On a recent trip into the city, I noticed people stationed on several street corners. Their clean, coordinated T-shirts announced a common goal—to help end homelessness. One of them approached me offering information. As I paused there on the street, I noticed a homeless man standing just a few feet away. I saw his scruffy outfit and downcast look. Although the advocates for the homeless were doing a good thing, they seemed oblivious to the man. No one spoke to him or offered him food.
Recently, my wife and I embarked on a plan to reach out to people who are different from us—spiritually, ethnically, and otherwise. Why take on this challenge? We’ve experienced the grace and blessing of God, and we want to bless Him by loving others who are also made in His image. It’s interesting, however, that even as we’ve strived to bless Him, we’ve been greatly blessed by God through these new relationships!
In January 2015, a terrorist stormed Hyper Cacher (a Kosher supermarket) in Paris and murdered four hostages. One of the store’s clerks, Lassana Bathily, heard the gunfire and hid shoppers in a freezer. Bathily, a Muslim whose courageous actions saved several Jews (including a child), was an immigrant who had been seeking French citizenship. As a thank-you for his bravery, authorities fast-tracked his papers and handed him a French passport during a public ceremony.
As a second-grader at a mission school in Ghana, I didn’t fare too well. Our two teachers gallantly juggled lesson plans for students spanning seven grades. This academic effort took place in a two-room cinderblock structure with an aluminum roof that began to broil us by noon each day. Distractions waged war on my 7-year-old attention span, and they were winning—handily.
Greg Boyle helped launch Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, California. Geared specifically to help former gang members, it’s one of the biggest and most successful ministries in the United States. Boyle knows a lot about loving and caring for others. In his book Tattoos on the Heart, he writes: “Compassion isn’t just about feeling the pain of others; it’s about bringing them in toward yourself.”
Oswald Chambers once said, “It is easier to serve or work for God without a vision and without a call, because then you are not bothered by what He requires. Common sense, covered with a layer of Christian emotion, becomes your guide.” So after we receive Jesus as our Savior, what is it that God requires of us? What should we be doing?
There’s something within the human condition that seems to enjoy seeing others fail, especially if those who fail were previously successful. For instance, we might celebrate seeing a top sports team fall from their lofty perch after a long period of success. About time too, and other phrases come to mind.