Friday, January 07, 2011

Do You Like Lifesavers?

“Do you like Lifesavers?” He asked me. “Thanks, but no thanks”, was my reply.

Floyd, (not his real name) was leaving the hospital where he had been my roommate for a few days and was going home. Trouble is that he was leaving with four big tumors in his liver, a failing immune system, and many more problems.

Floyd stood there awkwardly, dressed in flannel shirt with cut out sleeves, sweats that showed he was familiar with car repair - truly a “man’s man”, very reluctant to show emotion yet filled with fear and showing an obvious desire to somehow “connect”. I know the signs in People who are desperate for a sense that God exists and that God loves them despite their rough and obnoxious exterior and/or, ( in Floyd’s mind at least) a huge pile of sins.

My encouragement to him had been to simply get himself in God’s presence and pray the prayer of the father in Mark 9: Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” “Your part is just to get there, God will do the rest.” Recognizing that God was already in his heart and that his lifestyle had not fully separated him from God, was a great relief to Floyd.

“Do you like Lifesavers?” He asked me. “Thanks, but no thanks.”

How badly I wish I would have just said, “Floyd, I love Lifesavers,” and received his gift with grace. I was too distracted to notice…I never ask, “What would motivate a man like Floyd to give a near-stranger a somewhat worn out pack of Lifesavers?”

I believe whatever motivated Floyd was far more profound than a few words of encouragement I spent on him. I believe absolutely that God, who knows our hearts and minds had created an “opening” to this man’s soul through which he was reaching out to almost anyone who could help him find a connection to the Divine. He would have been proud to have given me the lifesavers but even more proud to feel he was worth my attention.

“Do you like Lifesavers?” He asked me. “Thanks, but no thanks.”

I also believe that it would have been pure arrogance to have kicked myself and felt guilty for neglecting to “hear” Floyd’s heart, as though everything depended upon me. God offers us opportunities, we probably miss a high percentage of them. For me, the sadness that accompanies the realization that we missed such a gift from God (…”blessed are those who mourn”) is sufficient to motivate greater vigilance.

Often others don’t see the pain behind our smiles when we show up at church feeling brokenhearted, or defeated, or sinful. It’s painful for us and sometimes hard to believe we are loved. At other times we gather together in worship with deep pain from a new divorce, or a financial disaster that sinks us from “well off” to bankrupt. We need each other to be ready to watch and listen for the nuances that would key them into our pain and brokenness. We need to pay attention to each other and try to discern the hidden message embedded in small gifts: kindness, or a smile, an extra firm handshake, or a pack of Lifesavers.

“Do you like Lifesavers?” He asked me. “Thanks, but no thanks.”


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Stan. You are truly a lifesaver. Keep it up. With our love,
Ralph and Wanda

Deanna said...

Yes I actually do like life savers. They remind me of church when I was young, my mom would hand them out to us to keep us occupied during a boring service. Thanks for sharing. That is actually my prayer for this year- that I will notice the heart of those around us and not get upset at people who are rude because I do not know what they are working through. Love sums it up. If we can just love one another.

Meredith said...

Hi Stan,
This is a voice from the past. I was in the Reedwood congregation from 1986-1993. I am so happy to "meet" you again here.

This was a wonderful story that touched me deeply. I love that you would inspire this gentleman, and notice his offering to you, albeit belatedly. I think there is a little mystery at play here, in that his offering was a "Lifesaver".

Blessings on you, dear Friend.

Meredith Krugel

Stan Thornburg said...

I do remember you Meredith. I remember you as a very kind person and one who often had encouraging remarks to share.

I'm happy my encounter with Floyd
I smiled at your ironic twist with his gift being a lifesaver as well.

Janny said...

Dear Stan,

What a lovely blog post. All my prayers to you at this time. You are a gifted writer. Hope you remember me too.

Janet Wright (Tate)

Janny said...

I forgot.. if you would like a read.. it's a good way to play catch up.


Raymond Voigt said...

Touching story. It teaches us that receiving a gift with grace is often a harder lesson to learn that giving freely.

Thorny Quaker said...

Thanks Janet, Thanks for your kind remarks. I read some of the latest posts on your blog. The paragraphs about the emptiness especially moved me. I think it will be helpful to my wife, also.

I will remember to lift you in the Light. Thanks for reaching out.


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