My mom was coming over today at 1PM to celebrate her birthday. I hadn’t seen her in a few weeks and I had flowers to pick up as well as a card. Things have been busy, and everyone has been busy with things. Katie, Collin and I pulled in at home after church. Marianne drove separate and was already home with Brandon.
It didn’t take long when we walked into the door to get busy again. Clean what needed to be picked up. Let the dog out, because she pees on the fireplace stones now (Yay…), sweep the kitchen, wipe down the bathroom. Grandma is coming over and let’s have the place look nice, because we are getting pizza!
It doesn’t make sense, but the kids clean because of it.
Everyone is busy. Everyone is busy except Brandon.
Brandon is crying. In the kitchen. While we are all busy doing stuff.
“Buddy, what is wrong?”
“Buddy, why you crying?”
Nada. Just some welling up tears.
“You want to tell me privately?”
I take Brandon back into my bedroom. He’s still upset and won’t talk and I let him know that’s OK. He can start talking when he calms down. Because if you have ever tried to talk to a 12 year old boy while he is sniveling and snot sucking tears it’s as effective as talking to a 42 year old man doing the same thing. You just let that happen.
Finally, Brandon breaks.
“Dad, you remember the video this morning in church?”
Of course I did. It was a video, called "The Least" where the church left the building after hearing the message of the day and went out to live their lives, busy. Busy and ignoring others.
And immediately I knew. I knew why he was hurting.
On the way home from church, on the corner of 131st and Bell Road, was a woman standing with the sign. I couldn’t make much out as I turned the corner in a hurry to get home but I saw the last words written: “GOD BLESS YOU”.
“Dad, nobody was stopping. Nobody cared. Mom didn’t care, she just kept driving!”
And he was hurting again. He was hurting and a video that was meant to prove a point about how the church wasn’t caring anymore was being lived out right in front of his eyes. Not just his Mom, but his Dad, too.
I looked at him. “You want to go help her?”
A nod. A sniffle.
A young man is walking along the ocean and
sees a beach on which thousands and thousands
of starfish have washed ashore. Further along
he sees an old man, walking slowly and
stooping often, picking up one starfish after
another and tossing each one gently into the
On the way to pick up gift cards and food, Brandon asked again. “Dad, why didn’t mom care?” I had to explain to him that people do care. That his mom was trying to get home to finish making a nice place for MY Mom and Step-dad who we haven’t seen in weeks and were coming by. How we get busy doing things for others and sometimes we lose sight of “the least of these” as Christians and forget, not on purpose, but in our cares for others we miss opportunities.
“Why are you throwing starfish into the
ocean?,” he asks. “Because the sun is up and the tide is going out
and if I don’t throw them further in they will die.”
“But, old man, don’t you realize there are miles
and miles of beach and starfish all along it!
You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even
save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you
work all day, your efforts won’t make any
difference at all.”
We stopped at the corner of 131st and Bell. She told us her name was Kristin. She had a falling out with her Dad a while ago and hasn’t been home since. He lives in Palos and he has seen her standing on the corner, but never stops. The cuts on her arm, the track marks and burns covering her can give an idea of what kind of disagreements her Dad may have had with her. Enough people gave up on her.
But Brandon didn’t.
I introduced Brandon to her, explained why we were there and what Brandon learned in church today. I gave her my info if she needed someone to call. The church address if she ever needed to stop by and asked her if she had a home church that could take care of her.
Christians don’t just care for the body, we care for the soul…
…when we aren’t being busy.
She said she had enough to stay at a 4 hour motel tonight. So she could get some sleep. I gave her the gift cards for food and the lunch we brought her. And then we left.
I looked at Brandon on the way home and I said to him “Buddy, guard that heart. The one that cares for people, the one that breaks for people in need. Guard that and never let this cynical world take it from you. There is a verse that says ‘Guard your heart, for out of it flows the issues of life’. Don’t ever give up on people.”
I saw the woman on the way home. I saw her and inside I felt that pang that there is someone in need. But someone else will help. Someone else will step up.
And someone did. It was my son.
The old man listened calmly and then bent
down to pick up another starfish and threw it
into the sea. “It made a difference to that one.”