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Jericho Roads

TheDiscipleMD

We all know the story:

“And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds…and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.” (Luke 10:30-34)

Martin Luther King Jr. once said:

“On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial.”

Dr. King’s vision was grand and on a national scale. And while perhaps none of us have the ability to transform the nation and its social structure, all of us have within us the power to influence and bring about change on the Jericho Roads in  the neighborhoods and communities wherein we live.  We can help accomplish this by choosing to treat others as we would like to be treated.  Christ’s charge to love our neighbor as ourselves is a simple yet profound way of changing Jericho Roads where we reside. When is the last time we went out of our way to help someone in need without expectation of reward?

In the late 70’s I found myself stranded on a Jericho Road in a major downtown city.  My car had run out of gas on the way to work.  I had to abandon my car till I could procure some petro. By the time I could get back to my car it was several hours later.  The co-worker who brought me back to my car drove off and  left me standing next to it as I poured gasoline into the bone dry gas tank.  I jumped into the car and turned the key.  To my surprise the car didn’t make a sound. Not even a click.  “What?” I thought. I knew the car was out of gas so I couldn’t figure out why the car wouldn’t even turn over.  I got out of the car and  popped the hood.  Much to my surprise I found that someone had stolen the battery out of the car while it had been sitting on the side of the highway.  I didn’t know what to do. I just stood there staring at the empty spot that once housed my battery.  I can’t properly communicate in words my frustration level.

Just then a car pulled over beside my car. I put my hands up to block out the sun and spied  a Chey Van that was typical of the 70’s. It was beat up and painted in psychedelic colors.  The door opened and out stepped a  thirty something guy who could best be described as ‘Huggy Bear’, a character out of a police drama of the day called ‘Starksky and Hutch.’ He was wearing a fur hat and a big smile and looked every bit the part of a man who dealt in the peddling of the flesh.  As he walked towards me I wasn’t sure if I should run or embrace him.  He stuck out his hand and asked me what was the problem.  When I explained that my battery had been stolen he smiled and said, “This is a bad place to have your car break down. Let me see what I can do.” He walked over to his van, opened the sliding door and started rummaging inside.  I walked over to the van and looked inside.  The inside of the van was shag carpeted from the top to the bottom in a lime green color that shouted out to be noticed.  He pulled out some jumper cables and walked over to my car.  He then asked me how far I needed to go before I could get some help. “Only a few miles” I told him. “Great”, he replied. Then he did something that I had never seen.  He backed the front of his van up to my car and hooked his battery up by cables to my alternator. Then, smiling, he said, “You will be able to go a few miles running off the alternator.” He told me to get into the car and start her up, which I did.

I thanked him and watched as he pulled away.  He waved and I instinctively waved back. He wasn’t of my color, he wasn’t of my social class and he probably wouldnt’ have been someone who would have been part of my social circle . Yet,  as I got back in my car, I couldn’t help but think how sad it was that I had made a quick and unflattering assessment of my “Good Samaritan.” By his actions that day, he helped me see that, all of us, no matter what station in life we hold, can change Jericho Roads in the places wherein we live.  So all these years later I remember Mr. Huggy Bear, and I echo the words of the Savior when he proclaimed,   “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40)

 

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“I’m Sorry” Goes A Long Way Towards Healing

TheDiscipleMD

My second grade teacher was a tiny elderly woman named Mrs. Wells who despite her size held a commanding presence in our classroom. She carried a foot long wooden ruler, almost at all times, and wielded it freely in order to get the attention of the class. It was not uncommon for her to strike the top of the desk nearest to her, which often was mine as I sat in the front center row. Needless to say I was never found slumbering in class and she always had my undivided attention. Although she was stern, she also was fair.

One school day after my class had returned from lunch Mrs. Wells came into the class and slammed her ruler on my desk. She had a very angry look on her face and she proceeded to tell us that the first grade teacher, Mrs. Mayer, had informed her that someone from our class had torn down much of the 1st grade bulletin board display that was up in the hallway. Mrs. Wells then demanded to know who from the class had done it. She folded her arms and waited for someone to come forward. But no one did. The seconds seemed like minutes as the classroom was now silent. Mrs. Wells repeated herself and waited again for the guilty party or parties to confess. It was obvious that no confession was forthcoming. The silence became so uncomfortable that  I raised my hand and told her that, although I had not done it, I would be happy to clean up and repair the damage done to Mrs. Mayer’s bulletin board. Mrs. Wells accepted my volunteerism and assigned another young man to help me. As I walked down the hall to repair the bulletin board, I felt proud of myself for being willing to clean up the destructive act of someone else. You could say I was skipping down the hallway to the bulletin board which was directly across from Mrs. Mayer’s classroom.

The door to Mrs. Mayer’s class was closed but the door had a small window in it and I could see Mrs. Mayer in front of her class writing on the board. As my buddy and I started to clean things up, Mrs. Mayer must have seen us through the window and came out. I had barely turned around to see her when she angrily started to scold me. I never had a chance to explain myself because she never gave me an opportunity to speak. She pointed her finger in my face and derided me for being a bad boy and how could I have done such a thing. I don’t remember what the other boy was doing but Mrs. Mayer clearly had singled me out for the verbal thrashing. She finished her tirade and told me to go back to class. I turned and ran down the hallway with tears beginning to flow. As I entered my class Mrs. Wells inquired why I was back so quick and I burst into tears and blubbered out what had happened. I seated myself as Mrs. Wells flew out the classroom toward the first graders room. I don’t know what transpired next but I know that Mrs. Wells and Mrs. Mayer exchanged some heated words. Next thing I know Mrs. Mayer was in front of our class talking to us about responsibility and not being destructive. Even as a little boy I could see and feel that Mrs. Mayer was embarrassed by her actions but that she was not about to apologize to me and the other boy for her misplaced anger. When she left the room I still remember thinking to myself that I didn’t like her because she wouldn’t tell me that she was sorry. She never did, and I never liked her after that experience. I have long since forgiven Mrs. Mayer, but I find it interesting that I have never forgotten the experience. Perhaps it is because of the feelings that rush back into my mind when I relive it. I am sure that the ugly interaction I had with Mrs. Mayer could have been replaced with another; one that could have included an apology and a moment of forgiveness. Instead, I am left with the former, not the latter.

Is it hard for us to say, “I’m sorry?” We certainly don’t say it enough. I find it interesting that throughout my life when I have heard these words, I have always accepted them. Don’t you? In fact, there is a bond that exists with parties that have shared such an interaction. Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy told this short story:

“Once my father, in the heat and frustration of a humid July afternoon, overreacted to my youthful farming blunders and administered punishment which I felt was in excess of the crime. Later he approached me with an apology and a much appreciated expression of confidence in my abilities. That humble expression has remained in my memory for more than 40 years.” (Liahona, July 2001, “To Walk Humbly with Thy God”).

As we go through life, let us be humble enough in liberally saying “I’m sorry” and kind enough to say “I forgive you!” As you can see, the memories of Elder Jensen towards his Father are sweet, while my memories of Mrs. Mayer still are left unsettled some fifty years later.

 

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When You Lack Courage!

TheDiscipleMD

It happened many years ago, yet, it is still fresh in my conscience and from time to time it appears on the “stage” of my mind. At the time it brought a smile to my face, but later, regret. It happened on an otherwise innocuous day during my junior year in high school. It was fifth period English class and we had a substitute for the day. You know how “well” those classes end up going. No one listens, no one cares. The poor teacher is subject to all kind of abuse! This class was no exception. The woman substitute teacher was trying her best to maintain order but as soon as she would turn her back and start writing on the board, a student would throw something at another student or even worse, a student would knock over one of the empty desks. It would make a loud crashing noise as it hit the floor. The teacher would quickly turn around but was never quick enough to catch the perpetrator. I didn’t do anything but observe the hijinks from my fellow students. Finally, with her voiced raised in frustration and anger she said, “The next person who knocks over a desk is going to be thrown out of class and will report to the principals office!

She turned and started to write something on the chalkboard. In the row next to me, starting from the front, was a couple of students, an empty desk, then another student was appeared to be sleeping, then a few more students. I watched as a friend of mine, who was seated behind the sleeping student, stretched his foot out as far as he could, around the sleeper, and push the empty desk over. As the desk began to fall he quickly got back into his seat. The desk crashed to the floor. The sound of the crash awoke the student who was sleeping so that when the teacher turned around the once slumbering classmate had his head up. I must say that I didn’t really know the name of this classmate but I do know that he had long stringy hair, looked unkempt, and appeared to be what we called back then, a “pothead”. The teacher erupted in anger and started to shout at the innocent kid. The student tried to defend himself and stated his innocence but the teacher was so frazzled by then that she was in no mood for explanations. She told him to leave the class and report to the principal’s office. He stormed out of the room pleading his innocence. it was pretty ugly, and at the moment somewhat hilarious seeing as everyone in the class knew he was innocent. It seemed that the joke was on the teacher! Still, I sat there…. and so did everyone else. No one came to his defense. Perhaps he had no friends in the class, I don’t know. I just know that after the moment passed, and I did nothing; it became less funny. And so it is, some 40 years later that I still remember the ‘case of the falling desk.’  I even remember the name of that friend of mine who knocked the desk over. More interesting is the fact that it is a memory that doesn’t reflect well on my friend’s character. More interesting is the fact that the memory doesn’t reflect well on mine. I wasn’t “standing tall” that day.

Whenever I hear the words “stand tall” I think of Gordon B. Hinckley. He said-

“Stand a little taller and work a little harder….You and I are sons and daughters of God, with something of divinity within us. Let us stand tall, my brothers and sisters. Let us live the gospel. Let us be busy in the Church. Let us learn of its doctrine. Let us feed upon its teachings. Let us grow in faith and faithfulness before the world. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Inspirational Thoughts,” Liahona, Apr 2002). To the youth he once said, ” Stand tall, do what is right, count on the Lord, and He will bless you in a wonderful way”. (youth meeting, Denver, Colorado, 14 April 1996).

I would hope that as adults we have overcome our fear of others and what they think and that we will do what we know to be right. But, the natural man is hard to overcome. It is a constant battle to “stand tall.” But it’s a battle worth waging.

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Reflections That Come Softly To The Soul

TheDiscipleMD

I’m sure it happens to everyone; you’re driving along, listening to the radio, when out of the blue and for no apparent reason, your thoughts drift to someone you love. Oft times it is someone you have lost. This morning it happened to me. I don’t know why but as I was driving along reflections of my deceased mother came to my mind. And more importantly, to my heart! You can never really communicate to anyone, except perhaps your siblings, who your mother really was. Friends, acquaintances and others only see the public side of a person. And even your own children really only know her as a grandmother, and as is often the case, health issues in the later years of our lives often rob us of some of the character traits that make us truly unique.

But I was witness to the three-dimensional woman who I called my mother.  I hold the memories of her close and on occasion, like today, they swell up inside my soul. It is on these occasions that I long for her embrace, her touch, and her smile. I don’t know how long it will be before I  once again experience them with her. But I have great faith in the promises of the gospel that the day will come when we will once again embrace!

I think that love is eternal! I believe that it knows no bounds and crosses all dimensions! I think it is the finest attribute of Godliness. I believe that families are forever. Until forever comes, I am left with reflections that come softly to my soul of a mother loved and of one who loved me. As time passes onward and memories start to fade, one thing that doesn’t, is the feelings of love that we shared. It is this bond that binds us together and leaves my heart full of hope for the eternities. I could quote prophets of old, and prophets of new, that testify of the truthfulness of this principle, that love is eternal. But to be truthful, I don’t need their testimonies to convince me. I have always felt it deep in my heart. I’ve never needed verification from any other source to believe it.

All of us wait for that day, when we shall see our loved ones again. When we won’t have to just rely on our memories. They will be real! They will be there! We will be together again! Because of the sacrifice of the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, that much-anticipated day will come!

 

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