I am not Christian, but the rest of my family is. So I accompany them to church every Sunday. I started doing it as a way to show some species of spiritual uniformity when my son was little. But now, even though he is older and able to understand my different background, I keep going.
One of the advantages is the weekly exposure to New Testament readings, something I didn’t get growing up as a Jew. Not raised in the habit of revering Christ, I nonetheless respect Him and His teachings, and can explore them from an almost academic point of view. Still, much of their appeal has nothing to do with intellect and a great deal to do with the heart.
One of my favorite themes is Christ’s admonition that whatever small kindness we do “for the least of these” (Matthew 25:40) is as good as doing a huge favor for Jesus himself. We are encouraged to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, listen to the lonely, and render whatever service we can to those in need. Doing this makes us not only more human, but more like Christ himself, we are told.
It has become a giggling thing with my family, on leaving church, to see the drivers — there is at least one after every Mass — who cuts someone off on the way out of the parking lot, maybe even engaging in hand signals. Being inside of 30 minutes of receiving God’s grace appears not to be enough to hold off the stress of the temporal world for a little time. When this happens, we chortle, make the sign of the Cross, and say peace be with you while shaking our heads.
But it gets me thinking, sometimes: how many people try to extend the Matthew chapter 25 lesson through at least a part of the week? One need not be Christian to be captivated by the supernatural aura of possibility. Who might you meet…who is actually Christ? The homeless man? The high-functioning autistic boy who bags groceries but talks rather loudly? The lonely old man walking his Boston Terrier? If you are Muslim, or Buddhist, or Jewish, or anything else — where is the deity in the people you encounter?
Or just as fascinating: where is the deity in the people who encounter you? After all…what if you’re the one who needs the help?
I have a lot of Facebook friends. But I am proud to say I also made a real friend on Facebook. You know, the kind you see in person and talk to on the phone from time to time. This guy lived in Orlando, happened to be in the TV business when I was, and has an only son, like me. We met, spent time together, got our wives together, enjoyed….then he had to move away for a job. We still keep in touch, although I’m not so good at returning phone calls.
About the time I met this friend, I got cut loose from the Golf Channel. It was a shock to the system, even though I knew it was coming. More than a dozen years…I figured that counted for something, but media is a merciless business. I hit the ground running, started a website, went out on Tour and shot equipment videos and edited and posted and looked for advertisers and spent my savings and plowed ahead. But at times, the soul wearied. Nothing like a family to support to keep you pushing, but…there were low times. My own low times.
That’s where this friend came in. Just at a moment when I needed it most, he invited me to a John Hiatt concert. On a week night. He may have even arranged for the tickets, I don’t recall. I met his wife there. Another friend of ours came along. (My wife had to stay home with our young son, but she said, “Go! By all means, you need to go!”)
To this day, I remember the lights dimming, the music starting, the concert excitement taking over, Hiatt coming onstage…and that great protective bubble descending, shielding, protecting, covering three hours of worry-free peace. Rocked-out peace, sure. But peace.
Maybe that night, I was the least of these. My friend had his own job troubles later; I tried to help as best I could while he sold shoes, literally sold women’s boots, knowing the whole time he deserved to be on an anchor desk, and paid well for it at that. I’m glad to say he is doing well now.
But during those lean times….who were we to each other? Who are any of us to each other, and when? Which days? Which crises?
I smile now whenever I hear a John Hiatt song…♦
© 2013 Adam Barr