Dose of humility
At church Sunday morning I was administered a dose of humility and a jolt of introspection.
One of the gentlemen who attend our services regularly is mentally challenged or what would have been called retarded or mentally handicapped in pre-politically correct days. To what extent he is limited mentally I don’t know. Ultimately, his IQ level is not that significant to my experience.
My understanding is that he lives in a care facility and rides one of our church buses to attend the morning service. He wears a tie, sports a beard, and sits quietly throughout the entire service. I usually see him sitting in the same section of pews, though not always in the same pew, as is the habit of many members. When he arrives, he takes a seat and never stands throughout the service, not even for the singing of hymns. He seems to listen to the music and enjoy it, but I have never seen him sing.
He neither smiles nor frowns, but will always greet people with a slight nod. When I speak to him, and when others do, he always extends a hand in greeting but his handshake does not include gripping my hand. I grip his lightly, but his hand always remains limp.
This past Sunday morning he took a seat in the pew immediately behind me. He greeted me as I came to my seat, and we shook hands again during the time of welcome and greeting in service. I don’t know if he can read, but I did notice that he carried an old, well-worn Bible.
Part way through the service, sinus drainage required that I reach into my coat pocket for a tissue. Apparently, the gentleman saw I needed one. I felt a light tap on my shoulder and looked around. He had several tissues in his right hand and with his left hand was offering me a tissue. No spoken word, just a look into my face perhaps with a slightly raised eyebrow as if to say, “Can you use this tissue?”
To say that I was surprised is an understatement. Here is a man that, frankly, most of us take for granted and expect nothing from. After all, he is not mentally up to par. But here he was, with no suggestion or request from me that he provide a tissue, kindly and thoughtfully offering one. What a dose of humility for me.
I accepted it, and whispered, “Thank you.” I think he flashed a small smile as I turned my head back to face the front and listen to the special music being sung.
But I was jolted with introspection as I thought about the situation. It has come back to mind several times. Handing someone a tissue to wipe his nose is not an earth-shattering action, but it is quite thoughtful. It was taking an action to meet a need. Many needs I might have in life could not be met or fulfilled by this man, but he could offer me a tissue. And he did.
It made me wonder: How often do I do what I can? I am more than aware of many things I cannot do, but am I aware of what I can do? More importantly, am I willing to do what I could be doing?
It really made no difference to me that I did not need the tissue the man handed me. I had one in hand and others in my pocket. That, however, was beside the point. Certainly, he didn’t know I had other tissues in my pocket, and he may not have realized that I had one in hand to use. Even if he knew, he might have thought I would need more than one and he was willing to share from those he had.
I can’t prove it, but I’m convinced that he went contentedly on his way thinking he had helped me.
And he did! But not in the way he thought. I didn’t need the tissue, but I was handed a much-needed lesson.