The other morning whilst driving to work, NPR provided a thought provoking chunk of spiritual food. A writer whose religion or lack thereof was not revealed, described some anecdotes that could be found in his latest book. These stories consisted of his experiences in cafes. His most interesting story was a time when he saw a man sitting at a table with a gun in his lap. He sat down across from the man and found out he was working on a suicide note. The writer, who’d just been paid recently for a piece, offered to buy the gun from the down and out gentleman (I believe his desperation was due to financial difficulties and his wife leaving him). During their conversation he discovered more about the man and then offered him a phone and more money for a bus ticket home to his children/family. The man accepted the offers, gave up the gun, made the calls, and was soon on his way to family members – all of it paid and facilitated by the good samaritan. The storyteller/writer saved the man’s life. As I heard this story a few thoughts spoke to my spirit.
First, the writer helped this hurting man in a sacrificial way, having never seen the guy before. And he did it in a creative way. Instead of freaking out and trying to focus the guy’s attention away from suicide – he just offered to take away the means of destruction and with money – something the guy needed. He didn’t preach, berate or plead. It seemed that he approached the guy in a “normal” way as if the situation wasn’t as grave as it appeared and this brings me to my final point.
I wondered if I could do the same thing. I wondered if most of us religious, christian types wouldn’t step in with a load of christianeze to try to divert the suicidal from their intentions. Could we be “normal”… Thinking a prayer or dropping Jesus’ name into the mix may not have hurt either, but in this situation the lack of religiosity didn’t hinder a good outcome. Could I/we just be just as nice and normal in a peaceful, loving (and very effective) way to help someone like this in need?
Or do we – like I know I have and still do, when faced with an uncomfortable or unsettling situation, waste precious time or even miss an opportunity because our minds are racing trying to come up with the right “christianeze” – the ‘right, holy lingo’ to bring to the situation because that’s what good christians are supposed to do?
Do we hesitate to reach out because we haven’t figured out how to add the ‘soul-winning’ angle to the context? Or do we even intentionally reject doing simple, non-preachy kindness/niceness like this blogger describes in the opening lines to a recent post:
“We can’t support that?” the campus ministry leader informed us. “Not unless you include a tract or share the gospel in some way.” My college roommate Dave and I had requested some material and volunteer support from the parachurch organization for a new project Dave had initiated. He wanted to show God’s love on campus by raking leaves, cleaning frat houses, and providing hot chocolate on cold mornings. The ministry leader would have none of it. Showing kindness and love was not enough. For these acts to carry real value, he said, they had to be accompanied by something more.
Might it not be better to just do something – polite, friendly, kind, creative…in a way – kind of normal? And maybe the God-thing will just happen: a life will be touched: even changed forever? And then quietly, humbly and without fanfare, we can give all the glory to God…and walk on to the next opportunity.