December 12, 2008
It was last Wednesday, and I was plowing through what would end up being my longest work day at Pursuant yet. Most of the work that I do at my job is fundraising for Universities or Fraternities. I usually try to become familiar with all of the projects that I set up and at least see what the client is about, what they’re proposing, requesting, etc. It being our busy season though, lately I haven’t always been able to do that, and I’ve finished some projects without having even watched the entire presentation from start to finish.
That particular day, between watching requests to “support the bond of brotherhood” and “keep our school spirit alive,” I set up a small-scale client called “The Miami Project.” Knowing nothing about them, I did my initial setup that I do for any new project and put all the appropriate video and image files where they should be and then browsed to the video to see if everything was working.
I was surprised to see that it was a fund set up to help cure paralysis (You can see for yourself here). The beginning of the video touched on how suddenly and without warning paralysis could strike anyone, and it was a bit cheesy, frankly; it reminded me of a newscast. I had it playing on the side of the screen while I was making a few tweaks to the page’s code, when the video cut from the voice over to a young boy sitting in a wheelchair with a tube coming out of his chest, making a visible effort just to speak.
“Hi… my name is Christian.”
In that moment, everything else stopped, and I completely forgot what I was working on. I was transfixed and overcome, and sitting at work, without warning or precedent, my heart broke and tears rose to my eyes.
There was a ten-year old boy, surrounded by the constant din of the machines that keep him alive, belted into his chair with a doll in his lap, struggling to get the air he needs to casually introduce himself. After which, he smiles as much as he is able and glances to his left, looking for confirmation that that take would be Ok.
“My name is Chrishen.” He can’t even fully pronounce his own name. His own name. Oh, boy. Here I go again.
Out of all the countless heart-tugging commercials and appeals I’ve seen in my life, Christian’s probably hit me hardest, and I’m not completely sure why that is. Whatever the reason though, it started me thinking and I haven’t been able to stop since.
Mostly, I’ve been thinking about how blessed I am with all those things that I daily take for granted; things that if Christian could somehow do tomorrow morning, would be the single happiest experience of his life.
Sure there are those typical things that years of inspirational daytime talk shows have trained us to think of. Things like hitting a baseball, playing with the dog in the backyard, or swimming in a creek. But what about those simple things that are so routine, we forget we can even do them? Christian’s never scratched an itch on his foot, woken up in the middle of the night and walked to the bathroom, written his name on a piece of paper, clapped his hands, scooped a spoonful of cereal into his mouth, or even supported his own weight.
If I want to simply stand up and walk to the other side of the room, I can, and that is amazing! Inconceivably amazing. Even if there weren’t any people who couldn’t, it would still be an incredible gift from God. But there are people who can’t, and merely acknowledging and appreciating the fact that I can does nothing to help them. While it’s essential to remember God’s incredible blessing, that in of itself can ultimately only affect me.
So, what do I do? I’ve been struggling for a week about how to respond, and I still don’t know. I can give money to support the fight against paralysis or any of the other countless conditions that afflict so many people the world over. But that just seems too easy; too passive. I’m tired of responding to injustice and misfortune out of a selfish desire to ease my own conscience.
In the meantime, though, I’m selfishly helping no one in any capacity. Apathy, in my opinion, is worse than poorly motivated action. God can use someone’s self-righteous contribution; there’s not much to be done with me sitting on my hands. I need to start doing something. I just haven’t figured out exactly what that something is. I’m trusting God to keep my heart true and to use what will begin as little more than a selfish response as an opportunity for me to grow. And, more importantly, to minister to people who are in desperate need.
Jesus met people where they were, and ministered to their day-to-day needs. He put just as much emphasis on tending to their physical ailments as he did on their spiritual sickness. I think we often overlook that fact when we think about Jesus. We remember the miracles, but I rarely think about the real impact they had on each individual person who was healed. On one hand, it was Jesus demonstrating His divine power, but it was also Him showing compassion and love in a very real, tangible way. As His namesakes, Christians should be carrying on that ministry. We Christians need to help the Chrishens of the world in whatever big or small way each of us can.
“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” -James 1:27
That unstained part is a different blog post altogether.