All – my husband has a story to tell, so I’m turning over the blog to him this week. Thanks for reading!
Recently, our family had an opportunity to see the musical Come from Away. The story of this show centers on the small community of Gander, Newfoundland. On September 11, 2001, the city of Gander welcomed 38 unexpected airplanes and nearly 7,000 passengers into their community when the U.S. airspace was closed. For five days, the people of Gander opened their homes and changed everything about their lives in order to help these strangers that were stranded unexpectedly.
This show not only gave us the opportunity to talk with our kids about the tragic events that happened on September 11, but also gave us a chance to talk about how we interact with others. Sometimes, our own plans have to take a back seat to be available to help others in a time of need.
Fast forward about five days. My kids and I had just left my sister-in-law’s apartment in downtown Omaha where we had stopped to pick up a few things, then were headed home as it was nearly time for bed. As we walked out the door, my phone rang and I paused to answer it. As I hung up the phone, a man approached me from across the street, coming from the homeless shelter just down the road. He asked me if he could use my phone to call a number on a key chain he showed me; it was the phone number for the Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline. Clearly, this man was in turmoil and struggling with real issues, and in that moment I decided that my own desire to go home and complete our regular nightly routine was not nearly as important as being able to support this man.
While my sister-in-law sat with my kids in the car, and then in her apartment, I stood on the street corner with this man, whose name I learned was James. Together, we called the prevention hotline and I helped this man communicate to the counselor on the other end his immediate need for support and our current location so assistance could arrive. For nearly an hour we stood in the light of the streetlamp and waited together and talked. He told me and the counselor on the phone about his life story and struggles with mental health wellness. He told me about his passion for all types of music and his love for his family. As we talked, I noticed he would occasionally sidle up right next to me, as if desperate for human contact. In this time of need, it was clear he desired someone to listen to him and to show some compassion.
Eventually, James remembered his bag was back at the homeless shelter, so he returned there to retrieve it. I remained on the corner waiting for emergency services to arrive. When the police cruiser showed up, the officers went to locate James. I pray that he is able to get the support he needs.
This experience gave us the opportunity to continue conversation with our kids about how we interact with other people, and how to relate to those who are marginalized in our communities. These two events are reminders that sometimes the needs of others take priority over our own plans and desires.
Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship—a different kind of “sacrifice”—that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets. Hebrews 13:16 (MSG)