Recently, I was in the grocery line purchasing one pack of flour tortillas. The lady in front of me looked like she was on the way home from work, just like me. Her basket was full. She glanced at my single purchase and asked, “Is that all you have? Go ahead.” As I stepped in front of her with much acknowledged appreciation, the lady next to the checkout had me move ahead of her, with the statement that she was retired and not on any schedule. I was out of there in record time and had a great attitude – not normal for my grocery trips – because of the simple acts of kindness that both of those ladies have surely forgotten [unless they told their friends about the “pitiful man” in the shopping line]. They may have forgotten, but I have not. May I be more like them: sensitive to others, willing to give up some of my time for someone else and willing to do the small acts of kindness to make life easier for someone else.
Everybody needs someone to encourage them most of the time.
The last place people often times look for help during difficult experiences is among people of faith. This may be due to feelings of guilt on the struggler’s part. If they are believers, they may think they should not have difficulties or at least not admit that they are troubled by them. If they are not believers, they may not have a clue as to the power of faith in times of darkness. It is the role of those who are on the spiritual journey to reach out to those who need the hope that faith can bring.
The weekly personal contacts and the weekly meetings that are part of the First Place commitments are deeply rooted in the encouragement taught in scripture. The writer of the book of Hebrews stated it powerfully:
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:23-25 [NIV]
The word for encourage in this passage is the same Greek word often translated in other passages for the Holy Spirit. It literally means to “walk along with.” What a great picture of encouragement. What does it take to walk along with another person?
Notice – See the person.
That may seem obvious, but how many times do we pray for opportunities to make a difference in someone’s life and go through weeks without seeing the people God places in our way?
Sensitive – Feel with them.
We may not always know what or why a person is feeling a specific way but we can have an awareness of what others may be experiencing and be willing to truly listen.
Pace – Let others lead.
If we are to walk with others, we may need to slow down what we are doing and get in step with those God would have us to help, not too fast and not too slow, but as wanted and needed.
Direction – Have a sure path ourselves.
Be certain that we are on a sure spiritual journey in order that we may lead others through tough places we have traveled and learn lessons we have learned.
First Place gives the structure to be “walk along with” people. It is a journey of those who have and are traveling a life journey that has difficulties and victories. An encourager is a fellow traveler sharing the way as we go in faith.
When the ladies saw me in the grocery line, they saw someone who was tired, disgusted and out of place. Their allowing me to go ahead of them was a gift gratefully received.
It also caused me to ask myself when I had done even that small of a thing for someone else, expecting nothing in return?
I am looking for “pitiful people” like myself who need a break…it’s my turn.
Dr. Bill Heston
Dr. Bill Heston is on the staff of First Presbyterian Church of Houston, Texas.