Light Rain ~
Friday, Dec. 20, 2013
"Doc"Posted Thursday, December 17, 2009, at 9:13 AM
He was a veterinarian that everyone called "Doc."
An active member of the congregation I was serving, I noticed each December that he would become agitated and angry with any discussion of giving to the poor during my Holiday sermons. This happened three years in a row.
During the fourth year of my ministry I decided to keep the tradition of lighting Advent candles by reading a different meditative reading each Sunday during that time in the worship service. It was the third Sunday when "Doc" came up to me after worship.
He was crying and asked if that Sunday's reading had been written about him.
The reading I had shared was about a gentleman at a mall. Tired from hours of Christmas shopping, he was walking back to his car when he passed a teenage boy carrying a sign that read "help my family."
He stopped to talk with the young man and heard his story of how both parents had lost their jobs, the family was struggling to keep from being evicted, and there was no money for presents for his younger brother and sisters. Having been moved by his description of the hardness of their lives the older man pulled out his wallet and gave the teenager a couple of hundred dollars.
Filling his car with gifts for his own family, the man began to drive away with a deep feeling of satisfaction at having helped another family to enjoy Christmas. But, passing by the area where the teen had told his story, he saw the young man laughing and drinking with two other teenage boys, pointing at his vehicle and shouting obscenities at the generous provider.
In this reading the man drove away in a rage. He was furious at having been deceived and swore that he would never help another soul in need.
Yet, even with such hatred at the event of the last hour, he somehow heard a voice telling him to be at peace. God does not require that all of our efforts be successful, said the voice, simply that we try to help when the need presents itself. He had responded to the need. He had done well.
Let the misdeeds of the teenager be upon his young head and trust that what we send out returns to us many times over. The man who had given his donation would have such kindness return to him and his loved ones many times over as well.
"Doc" explained that he had been Christmas shopping at a local mall the first December after his wife's death. He had purchased gift after gift for his children and grandchildren and then came upon a teenager asking for help. "Doc" had given him all of the rest of his money in sympathy of one who was having a rougher struggle than even his own only to discover that he had been tricked as was the man in the meditative reading.
For years anger and bitterness burned in his heart. And yet, that morning, he somehow received the message through my sharing of that reading. He had done well in responding to the presented need and, in hindsight, God had indeed returned that kindness many times over to both "Doc" and his family.
I'm reminded of this event every year we light the Advent candles.
This year there is a great deal of need in Greencastle and Putnam County. I have no doubt that there may be some misusing the kindness of others.
And, we can't let that stop us from touching the lives of those who need our loving touch and helping those who indeed need that help.
P.T. Wilson is the senior pastor at Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church, Greencastle, and is also the University Chaplain at DePauw University.