All around us, there are people in need. And God equips each of us to reach out to others. We, out of the love God pours into our hearts, become God’s holy instruments. We are called to bring healing and wholeness. Offering encouragement, being thoughtful, affirming a person’s value are all ways to spread soothing balm.
Sometimes, a situation comes before us where there is an obvious, urgent need. We know instantly that we have what it takes to enter the situation and make a difference. I remember one recent summer when swimming at Watch Hill Rhode Island. With my boogie board in hand, I decided to ride a wave that drove me face first into the shore.
Struggling to get up, as soon as I was able to get out of the water, a woman stood before me. She said that her name was Nancy, she was a nurse and she would help me. Her medical knowledge and compassion put me on the fast track of healing. Not only that, but she put in motion other people who came to my aid. They accelerated the process and were all instrumental in binding up the wounds and restoring health. God used Nancy that day in a powerful way, because she was willing to step up and give the help she could.
Sometimes we have to make a sacrifice to help. In this case, Nancy helped me instead of spending the relaxing time with her family that she had come to Watch Hill to enjoy. In order to be a healer, we may be inconvenienced, or need to change our plans. We may need to respond spontaneously. That’s what happened with the Good Samaritan. He sacrificed resources - staying longer than he was planning, spending more money, tended to the hurt man’s wounds, getting food and feeding him, coordinating ongoing care.
Other times, it’s not so much a matter of sacrifice as it is a matter of paying attention to what is going on around us and having empathy. We’re in the store and we see someone trying to reach a can on a high shelf. You can say, “Let me get that for you.” Or the new grocery store clerk is in training and taking a long time with checkout. We notice that she is trying to do a good job, doing what she knows to do, and asking more experienced clerk’s questions. Instead of concentrating on how long it’s taking, you notice that she could use a lift. When you get to the front of the line, you tell her she’s doing a wonderful job. The tension drifts away, she smiles and thanks you. You have just become a healer in that situation.
In fact, a lot of people can benefit from a few genuine words of appreciation. Words like, “You are so kind to people, you inspire me.” You really know how to be a friend to people, what a great role model.” “You are so patient and good to your mom, she is so blessed to have you for a daughter.” These little things can boost people up when they feel low, or keep them going in a Godly direction when things are difficult. Sometimes, it can spur the little extra dose of energy needed to keep keeping on when someone is weary.
Look around you for a moment. People in your pew, people around you. You may have sat in the same pew next to the same people for years. Yet if you looked inside of their lives and hearts of those people, you may be amazed to see struggles you never dreamed they were dealing with. Think of all the struggles you personally have and are grappling with. How many people really know?
People can look fine and strong on the outside, and be torn apart on the inside. The truth is, we don’t know all that is going on inside another person, the hurts that they struggle with. So be generous and non-selective with healing balm you pour out to others. Don’t sprinkle it, lather it on. Do it many times a day. Your words have incredible power. Choose them with care, because you are God’s instrument of healing wherever you go.
You know, many sermons have been preached about The Good Samaritan. But I think, for me, the most significant observation about that story was stated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King says, “The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me? But the Good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” This reversed question took both the Good Samaritan and the man he helped, on an entirely different path. Turns out, the questions we entertain open a road before us, positioning the future for us, and others, before we even take a step into it.
Putting others ahead of ourselves is what Dr. King was observing made all the difference. Yes, the story of the Good Samaritan isn’t just a story of helping and healing. It is about asking the selfless question, boldly going where others, even people we may look up to, dare not go. It is about courage, the willingness to be flexible enough to change our plans spontaneously, compassionate enough to not only give, but give generously. It holds up for us a high standard of excellent living and challenges to come up to that standard. As Dr. King also said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others? Sometimes “others” are closer than you may think.
Mother Theresa, the Catholic nun who dedicated her life to helping the poorest of the poor, advises, “Help one person at a time, and always start with the person closest to you.”
So often, we take family members, especially those we live with, for granted. It is easy to stop really seeing them. Whenever I sense that happening in my own life, I close my eyes and say, “what if I didn’t know this person was my family. What if I had amnesia, and I was being introduced to my family right now for the first time, what would I see?” Then I open my eyes and look at my husband or my daughter and I can see the treasures that they are through fresh eyes – the eyes of amazed appreciation.
Expressing appreciation makes God smile. It’s a powerful way we can spread healing balm in our families. You could say, “I love that you take the time to cut out interesting articles from the newspaper to share with me.” Or “Thanks so much for unloading the dishwasher today – it was so considerate and thoughtful.” Tell family members what they did today that was good. Recognize their positive attitude, or the caring way they spoke to someone. Every day express appreciation to those you may live with, to people you interact with at work, or socially. Do it with enthusiasm and a genuine heart.
As we ask God to use us as instruments of healing, we will find God nudging us in our spirits to take a different tack. The Spirit may prompt you to come to church solely to bask in God’s presence and lift up every person you speak with. Or maybe the Holy Spirit will impress your heart regarding the church picnic in September, and your primarily goal will be to enjoy someone other people do not seem to notice, to help them have fun. Or maybe the Spirit will lead you to attend the next church meeting with a commitment to look around the table and draw out people who don’t say much by asking them what they think, making them feel wanted and needed. And thanking those individuals for the difference they make here at Wapping Church, mentioning one or two of their many gifts.” As instruments of healing, we have the power from on high to go into any situation and make a difference.
You see, it may not be all the things we accomplish with and through people that they remember. Although my grandmother died years ago, and I don’t remember all the details of our conversations, I remember THE WAY SHE MADE ME FEEL. Be a healer by making people feel valuable, important, needed, accepted, understood and enjoyed.
I invite you to do something important. Step up your help. Take it to a new level. For the rest of the day, pour healing balm intentionally into the life of every person that crosses your path. Maybe you can’t feed all the hungry in the world, but you can feed the hungry person sitting next to you. A meal, a loving word, a gentle touch. Maybe you can’t employ everyone, but maybe a teenager in your neighborhood could pet sit for you while you are on vacation. Maybe you can’t give a cold drink of water to everyone who needs it, but you may pass a guy standing on the corner in the heat of the day holding a sign about a store closing, up to 70% off, all items must go – you could give him a bottle of cold water. Maybe you can’t get everyone in the world the money they need, but if you see a person collecting cans near the Shop Rite in Manchester, you can give her a few dollars.
Never underestimate the healing ignited through simple acts of kindness. A genuine smile. A hello to a stranger. Asking a neighbor over for tea. Stopping your walk on the street to chat. As often as you do these things, you are doing them onto Jesus. And do not grow weary. God has equipped you with compassion, stamina, sensitivity and loving kindness.
As God constantly extends loving kindness to us, let us continue to spread and step up the loving kindness we extend. As we do this, God’s love in us will grow. God’s love will spread into the nooks and crannies of people’s lives. This is how the world will be made whole. Amen.