It’s been a few years, now. As I sat at my desk one afternoon in my office, my phone rang. It was a local hospital. The nurse on the other end of the line was calling about Jerry. Jerry who had a bad back and had decided to have fusion surgery. Jerry, who had been in the hospital for three days, now, recovering from that painful surgery. Now, a nurse was calling about him, to tell me he had ‘taken a turn for the worse,’ and I should come right away. In hospital talk, that meant that Jerry was either very near death or … already gone.
When I arrived, Jerry’s wife was in his room, standing alongside his bed, weeping quietly. A family friend stood by her side, and both of them gazed into Jerry’s now lifeless face. An undetected blood clot had lodged in Jerry’s heart and he died instantly. Now, as I stood quietly watching life and death unfold before me, a challenging dilemma presented itself: What to do at a time like this? Prayer, for certain. But what else?
Jerry’s wife now faced the challenge of telling her two children, a son and a daughter the terrible news. They were in school. Could I pick them up and take them to the family home, so she could explain what had happened, she asked? Of course. Of course I would pick up the children and bring them to their home.
I phoned my wife and asked her to meet me there. And then, I picked up the children from school. I noticed my wife’s car in the driveway when I arrived with the children. I was glad she would be there to help me know what to do in this ‘unthinkable’ scene.
As we walked in the door, friends surrounded both the children, and ushered them into the living room, where their mother sat, waiting. She bravely began explaining to her kids that their daddy had died from a blood clot. As I gazed around the circle of weeping friends in the room, I didn’t see my wife, even though I knew she was somewhere in the house. When it seemed like I could slip away from the drama of this precious mother comforting her children, I quietly began a search of the house.
I found my wife in the master bedroom, sitting on the bed … folding laundry. When I asked about what she was doing, she said when she arrived, Jerry’s wife was nervous and upset because she had been at the hospital with her husband for the past three days. She hadn’t even taken the time to make their bed, or fold the clean laundry that was piled in disarray. Now, people would be walking into their bedroom to make phone calls, perhaps needing privacy. My wife said, “I can only imagine how I would feel if I were in this terrible situation. I decided to do what I could. I know how to make a bed and I know how to fold clothes. So, that’s what I’m doing.”
In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus describes the scene when He will come back in all His glory, with all the angels with Him. And all the nations will be gathered before Him. He will separate them from one another, “… as a shepherd separates sheep on the right from goats on the left.” You can read about it yourself, in Matthew chapter 26.
He commends those who follow Him, the sheep you might say, of His pasture. He says, “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. Naked, and you clothed me. Sick and you visited me.’ The righteous will say, “When did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When were you sick and we visited you? We don’t remember.”
His reply: To the extent you did it to one of the least of these brothers or sisters of Mine, you did it to me. There is much to be said, I think, about noticing the need in the life of someone else. It may be that their great need at the moment is a cooked meal, or an encouraging word, or a card or visit when they’re sick.
Or … it may be that they need someone to make their bed and fold their clothes because their busy telling their children that their daddy won’t be coming home. As this New Year begins, opportunities to serve others and touch lives are everywhere we look.
“To the extent we do it to one of the least of these brothers or sisters of His, we’ve done it unto Him.”