Sometimes in life, it is very clear that certain events or people have been placed in our path
for a specific reason. Often times those people or events happen to appear in our lives at a crossroads or in pivotal moments that help to refine our character.
In those times, I am often challenged in my thinking and can often be presented with an opportunity to see things from a completely different perspective. It happened in my early years when I was fresh out of college and working to help find housing for homeless families. My preconceived notions of how a person came to be homeless were completely shattered by getting to know person after person who suffered from a traumatic event that left them with nothing or even worked minimum wage jobs but could not afford rent.
From my youth I was told repeatedly that in this country we get should “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps,” but from many encounters like these, I’ve learned that so many never had the boots, to begin with. Whether they were born into poverty and thus subject to a sub-par education, suffered from a disability or mental illness that made stable employment or housing an untenable situation, or suffered from a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina, so many stories like these began to deconstruct my notion of a "bootstrap society."
An experience of similar enlightenment happened more recently, where I had the opportunity to meet a man working in Pakistan. For his safety, I will not mention his name, but having the chance to sit down with him and listen to what he and his friends and family have endured simply to call Jesus their Lord and Savior really provided some perspective on this life we have and the opportunities that exist in the US.
From having, family members ripped away and imprisoned for simply believing in Jesus, to spending Sunday afternoons gathering with his community to remove the rubble and tend to the wounded from the latest suicide bomber, this man led a life that caused me to ask, “Am I doing enough?”
After talking for 30 minutes I went to order our lunch on my iPhone and I could not help but notice him staring intently at the device I held in my hands. A device that allowed me to do nearly anything I wanted. I could create artful masterpieces, I could order food that would be delivered to me, or fire off a tweet directly to the President of the United States without threat to myself or my family.
The man from Pakistan simply smiled and shook his head when he saw the social media apps on the phone’s display and said, “Could you imagine what would happen if I sent a tweet to the Commander of the Taliban?” He chuckled to himself, but the words landed on my heart like a ton of bricks.
After lunch, it was very hard to concentrate on much of anything for the remainder of the afternoon. Thoughts began to stockpile in my head like the plates of a bench press. In my daily conversations or in observing conversations between Christians on social media it had again become so clear to me that, as much as we want to say we don’t take things for granted in this country, the reality is that we do.
What do we sacrifice for our fellow man? When tragedy strikes I see so many stand on a wall for others, but is it enough to only respond when hurricanes or tornadoes strike? What about daily situations? Do we stand up for the barista who gets yelled at because an order was wrong? Do we stay silent when we hear a person disparage their spouse? Do we step in when we see a child abused?
When we see those experiencing homelessness shuffling back and forth, could we do more than offer them a couple of $1’s? Could we sit down and hear their story. Could we advocate? Could we serve them better? I think of Jesus at the well when He spent time with the “unclean” or “undesirable” in the community.
I think of the words we use to cut each other down on social media and in work environments, even in times of tragedy. How many times do we laugh at someone else’s pain? And how many times do we do all this from the comfort of our air conditioned homes, with Netflix playing in the background, while we play on our $1,000 cell phones?
We work hard as a people. We often spend more time with our coworkers than we do with our loved ones in this society. I know that for the most part, we have earned every cent, every benefit, and every toy that we own. But as a people have we become too comfortable? As followers of Christ, are we not called to step out of our comfort zone to serve?
My heart and prayers go with the man from Pakistan and I am eternally grateful for the gifts he gave me last week. The gifts of elevated perspective and continued hope in us as a people. If he can thrive in an environment built for him to fall, then I can take better advantage of the opportunities that this society provides to do more.