The Power of Kindness to Change Lives
This week AdventureMan and I have been blessed, greatly blessed. We have met some wonderful people and heard some amazing things. Two stories in particular have shaken the earth for me.
“How It Happened for Me”
The first story is about a friend we met from the newest country on earth, South Sudan. A group of us were sitting together when one woman turned to this man from the South Sudan and asked “How did you find Jesus?”
This was not a religious gathering, so it is an unusual question on a social evening. But this quiet, modest man responded “I will tell you. It is a long story. It starts when I was only five months, not a baby, five months in my mother’s womb.”
He told us of a life with no security. His parents and family fled to the forest, and were on the run continually most of his life – until recently. He told of a life trying to find safe places, sometimes being separated from his parents.
He told of a priest who, when he and his brothers and sisters were very young, taught them to say “God bless Mother and God bless Father and God bless my brothers and sisters and watch over us always.” He was kind to the children, and taught them that God loves them, that God is kind. He said they did not know who this God was, but he and his brothers and sisters said this prayer every night, to keep his family safe. He said they learned other simple prayers. There would be rare times when someone would teach them a letter, or some numbers, drawing in the sand, or the floor of the forest, simple, quick lessons.
“So I don’t know all the stories you do,” he said. “I don’t even know the bible very well, we never had educated priests, just simple men who taught us simple prayers. Only later did we become more educated.”
As we listened, we had huge lumps in our throats. I could hear Jesus’ voice saying that we must believe as little children, and this man had the pure simple faith of a child, a memory from his earliest years, as he prayed for his family to be safe in a world where life was continual chaos and a struggle to survive.
“When I understood about God,” he went on, “there wasn’t even a church or a pastor-man who could baptize me; I had to believe for many years before I could become a Christian.”
As a footnote, he told us that somehow, most of his village managed to survive, helping one another. His entire family made it through, his parents are still alive. The village children little by little gained education, becoming doctors, lawyers, professionals of all kinds. His village now has a church, a simple church, not always staffed, but a church. The war is ended. For him, the simplicity of peace is all he ever wanted.
We will never forget his, and his story. We have met an extraordinary human being.
Today, we went to a lunch, invited by a friend, to raise funds for public education. LOL, this is what I used to do; I worked for an education foundation and raised money for public education. I love this kind of thing. I knew just what to expect – lots of success stories, stellar achievements, and a gentle pitch.
Whoa! Wrong! Darling kids – check. Recognition of important guests – check. Gentle pitch – no way! They got right to business; you will see this form, please take your pens RIGHT NOW and fill it out and give what you can, education funds seem to get cut more every year and we are trying to do more with less and less. Give NOW. CHECK!
The final speaker was a local businessman and patron-of-just-about-everything, a man who also brought baseball to Pensacola. He talked about his own public education. He talked about his speech impediment, and his deafness, he talked about his short stature and his inability to sit still and concentrate. He talked about teachers who identified him and instead of treating him as an obstacle, made him believe they were glad to have him in their class. He talked about teachers who gave him special assignments, who taught him math by having him calculate baseball averages. He knew their names, these saints who kept him in school, no matter how discouraged he might be.
He graduated with a 1.9 grade point, and had no intention of going to college, but ended up astonishing everyone by doing well on the ACT test and having a guidance counselor who found him just exactly the right environment where he could flourish on the college level.
Important people usually enjoy telling you the great things they have done. This man focused on his disabilities, his humiliations and his weaknesses, and how the kindness of educators had pulled him out of a very dark place and set him on the road for the success he is today.
I am willing to bet that the education foundation gained a lot of donors today. We were caught by surprise. We can defend against the powerful and successful, but when the heart speaks from vulnerability and failure, our hearts respond. This man is a success, but he gives credit to those who looked at him with caring eyes, with caring hearts, who lifted him and helped him on his way to the incredible (wealthy) success he is today, with a flourishing business and innumerable local charities who are grateful for his support.
What a week! And it’s only Tuesday! I wonder what the rest of the week will bring?