Some time ago Mary and I hired a man to help us with a home project. Although he arrived on time and seemed a pleasant and reasonable fellow, I was a bit disgruntled with his appearance. He was in his middle to late fourties and overweight. He wore the ever present baseball cap so common in men his age and younger. It covered most of his graying hair with just enough hanging out to partly cover his ears. To complete his marriage to current style he had a week-old beard.
He was clean and wore his company uniform, but I didn’t think I would want him at my lunch table. The above picture is not our worker! But the one below is what we thought he should have looked like.
He went right to work and did a great job. As he was about to leave he began to pet Frosty, out loving little dog. He told us he always loved dogs and proclaimed Frosty the sweetest dog he had ever met. We mentioned she was in training to become a therapy dog.
With that he stepped back a couple of steps, drew a deep breath and began, “Last year our son,” he hesitated, looked at the floor, swallowed and continued. “Our 12 year old boy spent a month at Vandy’s Children’s Hospital. They have a great bunch of therapy dogs there.” He paused as if searching for the right word. Cleared his throat and added, “That’s such a great hospital; but the man in the ambulance said I should be prepared because most likely they would not be able to save him.”
“Sometime during that long month in the hospital, Joey said to me, ‘Dad, I don’t want to be here anymore.’ I told him I didn’t want him to be there either, and that soon the doctors would let him come home.”
He swallowed again, drew a few short breaths and went on. “Then Joey said, ‘I don’t want to go home, I want to go be with Jesus, I want to stop hurting.’” (My eyes are crying again just writing this.)
“Now, after multiple surgeries he’s home; but doctors say he needs more plastic surgery. He plays sports again and is doing everything that boys his age do. I always was a believer, but I didn’t really take religion seriously until this happened.”
The he apologized for taking so much of our time, say good bye to Mary and Frosty. He shook my hand and said, “Thanks for listening.”
Holding back my tears I said, “Thank you for sharing your story and for being such a good dad. The world needs more dads like you. Your words inspired me in so many ways. Know that we will pray for Joey and your family.”
He walked out of our door to his truck but not out of our hearts and minds. We will see him again.
Father Greg Boyle in his book Tattoos on the Heart, quotes renowned Jesuit theologian Leon Dufour as saying, “God is the person you’re talking to, the one right in front of you.” Only a man with a blind heart could not see my workman as Christ. I was that blind man until I heard his story. “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked in his shoes,” they say. But, I waited until I heard his story before I saw Christ in him. May he and God both accept my apology.
I offer the following thoughts, not to try to justify my blindness, but to offer an approach to seeing holiness in others.
Have you ever wondered why we see Mary and Joseph in the stable all dressed in fine clothing. Mary’s hair is well coiffured, her make up perfect, her blue flowing gown looks fresh from the cleaners as she kneels in adoration. Imagine that, just a few hours ago she gave birth to a baby! I never read that an angel gave her an epidural, no shepherd delivered her clean clothes, and neither did they bring her any dinner. But, because we think of Mary, Joseph and Jesus as holy people we paint a picture of how we think holy people should look. We can’t think that Jesus could be an overweight, middle aged, average working guy in a baseball cap. As hard as it may be, we need to open our eyes to see people, all people, as Christ who told us we are his hands and his feet. He works through us and through “them”.
Several months ago I decide to try to see Jesus in one person each day. But, now I see that is not enough. My goal for this season and my New Year’s Resolution is to see God in everyone I meet and to treat them as if they were Christ (that’s the real hard part). I know for me that will be a big challenge! Pray for my success and be assured that I pray for you and all my readers.
And may you all have a Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year.