Tuesday, March 6, 2012
There but for God's grace...
In the past week there have been several tragedies in my community that I am indirectly concerned with. A young man was murdered, for an unknown reason, and he was a friend of my dear friend's son. So my friend's family is deeply grieved and mystified.
On last night's news I heard that a homeless man was found dead, having drowned in a culvert. He had been 'heavily inebriated.' I knew this man briefly. He came to my door one day, distraught and wanting me to make a phone call for him for help. I made the call, and sat with him on the porch, as we drank a cool drink of water together and waited for his help to arrive. He was a quiet, seemingly gentle man. He also seemed to be very intelligent, educated, but overwhelmed by life. He had family in the area, and seemed to be homeless by choice. Our conversation only lasted half an hour or a bit longer, but I felt a connection to him. I have also felt overwhelmed by life, and felt a 'there but for the grace of God go I' reaction. I have prayed for him since that day last summer. So it was a shock and a source of great sadness to hear the news of his death and the sad circumstances that surrounded it. He had expressed a determination to keep away from substance abuse when we visited, and the call he had me make was to someone who would help him keep that resolve.
In both of these situations, there is a sense of having failed. My friend expressed to me that her son, and her whole family, wondered if they had done something differently, would the young man who was murdered still be alive. And I wonder, with the death of the homeless man, should or could I have done more for him than just pray for him? I truly don't know the answer to those questions, but I do feel that we have an obligation, a commitment, to the people around us. Jesus taught us that in the parable of the good Samaritan.
At this point, we can just grieve for these two men. But maybe that grief will, at least for a time, cause us to be more attentive to the people around us, to really attend to them; to see them and hear them and to see if they have needs we can help meet; to try to understand why God put them in our path, and to discover if there is a purpose in our interactions with them. We can attempt to be God's servants in our relationships, not just with those we are close to, but with each person we come in contact with. Who knows where that would take us, or what it would require of us? But I am sure it is how God wants us to live.