I was in Sam’s Club the other day, buying a new pair of glasses. That was nice, but it reminded me of something that gave me real insight. Not just sight.
A few years back, I was pastoring a new church, and we didn’t have any money. We constantly struggled to make ends meet. As the sole provider for our family, I was continually filled with fear about how we would pay bills every month. I tried not to whine about it much, but I rarely got a good night’s sleep from worrying over it. It was awful.
At some point, my glasses broke that I’d bought when I served a larger church and had a good salary. Since we didn’t have the spare money to buy me new ones, I used some cheap reading glasses that you buy at the dollar store to get by. On Sundays, when I preached, I’d put my glasses on while reading a Bible passage. Then I’d take them off to talk to everybody. So my whole message they were on and off again.
One day the phone rang. It was a member of my church named Hector. He said, “Listen, this Friday, I want you to meet me at Sam’s Club. OK? We’re going to get those eyes of yours fixed up!”
Hector and his wife were local pediatricians. They had immigrated to the US from the Dominican Republic. Since they spoke fluent Spanish, they had built a practice of caring for our local Hispanic population. He and his wife were warm and kind to everyone in his office, even though many of them were obviously very poor.
He had even helped out his poor pastor, who had no health care and couldn’t afford to see a general practitioner. It was quite a striking image – a white US native given charity by a Latino immigrant. But giving was what Hector did better than anything. So I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear from him.
When I met him that Friday, it was clear he wasn’t helping me out of obligation. He was excited to be there. It was as if giving was his favorite contact sport.
Every time the optometrist asked if I wanted a special feature for the glasses, Hector would say “yes” before I could protest.
Progressive lenses? Of course.
Do you want them to darken in sunlight automatically? Certainly.
Rimless frames? Of course! “Pastor, if you’re a communicator, you don’t want anything blocking your eyes. People need to see them clearly….”
When I picked them up about a week later, my happiness wasn’t because I would be able to leave my “readers” behind. Wearing these new glasses, I felt more loved and appreciated than I could remember. I was reminded that God was taking care of me, even with little money in the bank and minimal income. And it was all because one man who didn’t owe me anything showed me Jesus’ love.
I’ve found that Hector is the exception to the rule as far as most people are concerned.
I thought I should throw that in before you got too inspired by my story. To be completely honest, I don’t really like some people. Maybe even a lot of people. Most of them are nothing like my friend Hector. Many I’ve met are selfish and think they are the only people who matter on the planet.
I do still care about them. I just don’t always enjoy being around them. I guess that’s an occupational hazard of mine, that pastors feel responsible to love folks you don’t necessarily like.
I know we’re taught to believe everyone is good on the inside. That gives you a positive outlook on life, they say. But it’s simply not accurate. It’s one thing to try to be positive. It’s quite another to live in denial. And believing people are naturally good will set you up for a lifetime of disappointment.
I used to help people and expect they would be nice back to me. Boy, have I learned my lesson on that one! Now I help them simply out of obedience to God with no expectations. I don’t expect anyone to return my kindness, and I certainly don’t expect friendship from them. I’ve learned that true friends are a rarity in this world.
Maybe that’s more Christlike anyway when we love people without expecting any decency returned to us.
Today, I was back at Sam’s Club again. It seems I have a rare condition that makes me have to get a new prescription every few years—aging!
But today, I’m paying for my own glasses. I’ve got a job in a church that pays me a good salary. That may not sound like much to you, but it’s a big deal to me. It’s a good feeling, not having to depend on other people’s kindness. Especially when we so rarely see it.
As happy as I am to purchase my glasses today, I’m still overwhelmed by a flood of gratitude thinking about that old pair. I remember when my friend Hector treated me like his own son, how nothing was too good for his friend, Pastor Dave. How blessed I am!
I know Hector is an outlier, entirely unlike most folks you’d meet. But God has put the Hectors there to blow my cynicism out of the water. He’s not trying to prove that people really are good. He proves that he is truly alive and works through the hands of anyone who’s willing.
He’ll work through you and me, too, if we let hHim.
How about we do something before we all turn into the monsters we see around us every day? In this age where rudeness is the rule, let’s determine to be the exception to the rule. Don’t let the monsters win.
Be a Hector. In a world of darkness, set yourself on fire with goodness. Hopefully, the world will gather to watch you burn.
If you can’t see the good that’s still burning around you, I’ve got a friend you should talk to. In fact, I can get you an appointment even if you have no money. That friend helped me to see so much better than I could before.
Thanks to Hector and those glasses, I could see Jesus working right in front of my eyes. And now, I can see him work through me, too.
Dave Gipson is a husband, father of 4 adopted children and one biological child, former foster parent, and pastor at Naples Family Church of Naples, FL. An author, Dave's new highly acclaimed book, "The Seven Surprises: Everyday Epiphanies on Being a Better Human Being," is now available. He also contributes regular commentaries to the Naples Daily News as well as other international publications. He has served churches for the last 25+ years, from Florida to the inner-city of Chicago. Rev. Gipson holds his ordination in the Southern Baptist denomination, and has two earned Masters degrees in Religion and Divinity. Read more at http://davegipson.net.Follow him on Twitter at @realdavegipson.