Syndicated columnist Larry Elder once wrote a column describing a visit to his doctor. Larry lives in a big city so he had no way of knowing anything about his doctor, outside of his occasional appointments. Larry says he goes into those appointments like he goes into any other situation; talking loud, cracking jokes, and laughing. He is the life of the party type. His doctor is not the life of the party type. He is quiet and serious and seldom smiles, despite Larry’s constant attempts at humor. This time, the doctor called Larry into his personal office for further consultation after his exam. As soon as they sat down the doctor received a phone call and had to leave the room for a while. As Larry was waiting, he got up and looked around at some of the photos on the wall. One photo appeared fairly recent. It was of the doctor, his wife, and their three daughters standing rather stiffly on the front porch of their small home– their really small home, Larry thought, for this successful doctor.
When the doctor returned, Larry pointed at the family photo, and jokingly said, “Hey Doc, why does everyone in this picture look so sad?” The doctor just looked at him and for several seconds said nothing. Larry regretted asking the question, quite sure he had offended the man. Finally, the doctor stood up and quietly closed the door.
For the next twenty minutes the doctor told Larry about his life. He and his wife, very much in love, married young and in a short time had three daughters. One day, his warm and lively wife suddenly lost her energy. She become increasingly distant, and communicated less and less. The doctor first thought it was just fatigue. But things kept getting worse. Before long she was alternating back and forth between long periods of silent withdrawal, and then, sudden spurts of unprovoked violent fits of anger, followed again by silent withdrawal. She was diagnosed with a genetically based mental illness. Eventually, each of their three daughters, at various ages, started showing the same symptoms.
Every dime the doctor earned went to specialists and therapy. Nothing helped. The daughters, now also dysfunctional, never finished high school, and also withdrew into their home. Friends tried to help but soon stopped visiting, because the doctor’s wife and daughters were frightened by old acquaintances who to them, were now ‘strangers.’
Ignoring advice to institutionalize his family, the doctor hired and dismissed a long series of in-home attendants before finally finding one that his wife and daughters accepted. Now, the doctor said, he comes home every day to his troubled family, and tries to make their lives as comfortable as he can for as long as he can.
“How can you deal with this?” Larry asked.
“How can I not deal with it?” the doctor replied, adding, “God would expect no less of me. This is my family. These are God’s children.”
Another story from the same column. Sam worked for thirty-three years as a middle manager for a manufacturing firm. Sam loved his job, and the people he worked with absolutely adored him. He spent much time on the floor cheering people up, boosting morale, praising work well done, and firmly, but gently bringing a word of rebuke or discipline when that was needed. This cheerful man with his big smile infected everyone with his joy and optimism. His co-workers referred to him as the company’s unofficial ‘mayor.’
One day, the company was sold. The new owner told Sam to come into his office, explained to him that his position was being terminated, and gave him two hours to pack up and leave.
Sam was crushed. He tried hard to find a job that paid enough to maintain his family’s lifestyle, but was not able to find anything. After trying everything to find a job of similar status and salary, he finally accepted a position at half the pay. It was a job collecting money at Toll Booth #6 on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
But Sam never felt sorry for himself, resolving to put as much energy and enthusiasm into toll-taking as he did at his former manufacturing job. Before long, Philadelphia commuters, though weary from a full day’s work, would line up at Sam’s booth to pay their tolls, even though other booths had shorter, even empty, lines. They knew that at that booth they would see a big smile on a happy man who remembered their name and always had something funny or kind to say to them. The joy was infectious, and they knew they would leave there feeling better.
The title of the column was Everyday Heroes, and Elder concludes it with these words: “Every day in America, ordinary people show up and perform with a sense of duty, honor, and responsibility. They live up to their commitments, doing what needs to be done with dignity, pride, and without self-pity. These quiet, selfless, unheralded heroes are all around us.” (continued…)
Ephesians 2:10 — For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Colossians 3:23-24 — Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Matthew 10:42 — (Jesus said), “If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
PRAYER OF ST. IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA:
Teach us, good Lord, to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do your will. Amen.