It was the end of a long day of an even longer work week. A week that had been filled with travel to another state that included a packed schedule of meetings, events, and responsibilities. I was tired. All I wanted to do was get to the airport so I could get home to my own bed. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, I had nothing left to give. I am naturally a pretty high energy person, yet after the events of the week, I felt completely drained.
I boarded the shuttle bus that would take me to the airport, closed my eyes, laid my head back on the seat, and quietly waited for the other passengers to board so we could be on our way. In a few minutes, the driver informed me no one else was scheduled to board, so he began the trek to the airport. Before we had even left the parking lot, he began making conversation. Did I mention I was tired? Making my best attempt to be polite, without inviting extra conversation, I gave one word answers. Until he got around to asking me what I do for a living; that required six words, “I work in eating disorder treatment.” Screech! Did he just slam on the brakes? What’s happening? Wondering what had run in front of the shuttle that would cause the driver to brake so suddenly, I lifted my foggy head. But nothing was blocking our path. He turned to look at me, and in an instant, I knew I needed to draw on some energy reserves from somewhere. “I can’t believe you’re on my bus today,” he said, eyes wide and brimming with tears. “You’re supposed to be on my bus today.”
I knew this guy needed conversation more than I needed solitude. I drew in a deep breath, and simultaneously threw up a quick prayer; Lord, please give me your strength to help this man, and some wisdom too while you’re at it.
Hope whispers, do something.
I asked my shuttle bus driver his name, and invited him to tell me his story. As he drove me to the airport, he recounted his struggles over the years. I listened intently, and when we arrived at the airport, I handed him my card, and encouraged him to call our team. He told me he felt his situation was hopeless; he’d been “stuck” in some unhelpful patterns for too long and he thought he was beyond help. I told him that hope is the belief that things can get better. “All you have to do is believe,” I said gently. “And just take the first step.” Then I stepped off the shuttle, and prayed he would call.
Several weeks later, I got the word that my bus driver had admitted to our eating disorder treatment program, and he was requesting to see me. I’ll never forget the smile he greeted me with that day. His eyes were no longer downcast and filled with tears; they were bright and filled with the look of promise that comes from hope. “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” he kept repeating. “Thank you for getting on my bus that day, and for reaching out to me about your programs. I am getting the help I need and I have never felt so alive and filled with hope.”
Now it was my time to get teary. “This is just the beginning,” I told him. “Life is filled with good things for you; you just have to believe you deserve them.” We spoke awhile longer and I saw him only one more time, just before he discharged from our treatment center. He was smiling even wider; his eyes even brighter. “Hope”, he whispered as he departed, “hope saved my life – thank you.” I smiled, then laughed, and tried not to cry, “Oh don’t thank me, I’m just the messenger.”
I share this story because for me, it’s a good reminder that it really doesn’t take much to help someone in need. All I did was listen. I planted seeds of hope. I prayed. If you have been alive more than a minute or two, you have been faced with crossroad moments. The kind when you have to choose between what you feel is the right thing to do, and what you really want to do when you recognize that someone around you has a need. If you’re like me, you haven’t always made the right choice. I am very passionate about what I do for a living, and I am always asking God to use me to bring others hope, but there have been times when I have closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep so I didn’t have to talk to someone because I was just too wiped out. I’m not proud of those moments. But rather than punish myself for being imperfect, I am grateful that there will always be opportunities to choose differently. Like with my bus driver. It’s called grace. Can you extend some to yourself? Instead of beating yourself up for missing an opportunity to help someone, ask God to bring you another one. Trust me, He will! The world is filled with hurting people.
It seems in my life, that I am called upon to give a little extra when I least have it. I have noticed that the needs of others seem to present themselves at the end of a hectic day, when I am most depleted, rather than first thing in the morning, when I am operating on all cylinders and an extra hot double tall latte. Can you relate?
I wonder if this is because God wants to remind us, that it is really through Him, that we have the strength to go the extra mile. Otherwise, it’s too easy to become self-reliant, rather than God-reliant. I don’t want to rely on myself; God is so much stronger than me! A Scripture verse that often empowers me is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It is a good reminder that when He has something for us to do, He will give us the strength we need to do it. I have whispered that verse in a prayer, asking God to strengthen me, more times than I can count.
You don’t always have to be the one to do something when someone needs help, but there may be times when you are the right one to do something. The question isn’t can you – that’s already been answered in Philippians 4:13. The question is, will you?