Darrell* was a volunteer in his church’s youth group, but he was a reluctant volunteer. He only liked to help out with certain activities, but there were other things that he definitely did not want to do. For example, when the youth group would go to the nursing home to sing songs every month, Darrell would always have an excuse for why he couldn’t be there.
But one month, all the other youth group leaders were sick, so there was no one else but Darrell to drive the group to the nursing home. So Darrell had no choice but to go. As the kids were starting up the program, Darrell dashed for the back and sat in the very last row between two men in wheelchairs, counting down the seconds until they could get out of there. Something about nursing homes he just didn’t like.
Finally, it was time to go. As he shot up to leave, he put his hands down a wheelchair armrest to steady himself. A hand shot out and gently squeezed his. Darrell looked down and saw a man in a wheelchair, staring off into the distance at nothing in particular. The older gentleman didn’t say anything, but Darrell couldn’t shake the feeling that the warm hand in his meant something. A human connecting with someone else. He sat back down and kept holding his hand until he couldn’t stay any longer. Darrell found out the name of the man was Warren. He found these words tumbling out of his mouth to his new found friend, “Warren, I’m so sorry, I have to go, but I will be back next month. And I love you.”
Darrell had no idea he was going to say those things and that he was planning on coming back! But he did. The next month, and the next month, and the next month after that. He came every month and always sat in the back next to Warren, holding his hand through the program. They never spoke, as he was told that Warren couldn’t, but Darrell said the same words every time at the end of their visit: “Warren, I’m so sorry, I have to go, but I will be back next month. And I love you.”
About nine months later, Darrell was sitting in the back, watching the program, when about halfway through, Warren still hadn’t showed up. Some days he was later than others, as it took the nursing staff some time to get everyone situated. But Warren still wasn’t there, and Darrell wondered what had happened to him. He went to the nurses’ station and asked what had happened. “Oh, you should go visit him,” one of the staff said sadly. “He may not make it much longer,” they whispered.
Darrell went to Warren’s room – he had never seen someone die before, but he instinctively knew Warren was dying. He sat beside the bed, and reached for his hand. There was no response. Darrell stayed for as long as he could, until one of the other youth group leaders came to tell him it was time to go.
Darrell squeezed Warren’s hand, and said, “Warren, I’m so sorry, I have to go, but I will be back next month. And I love you.” As he stood to go, he felt the faintest of squeezes from Warren’s hand. By this time, tears were streaming down his face and he stumbled out of the room, and nearly bumped into a woman. They mumbled their apologies, and Darrell continued to leave.
“Wait, stop!” the woman touched his arm. “You’re the man he talked about, aren’t you?”
Darrell wiped his eyes, confused at the comment. “What are you talking about?” he asked.
“I have to tell you something,” she said excitedly. “I’m his granddaughter and they called me in this week, saying he didn’t have much time left. So I spent a good portion of the week with him, and I know the doctors say he can’t talk anymore, but I can’t believe that. One night, he spoke to me – as plain as day. He told me, ‘Could you do me a favor?’ And I said, ‘Yes, of course, Grandfather, anything.’ He said, ‘Could you tell Jesus goodbye for me?’ And I was confused. I told him, ‘Grandfather, the next thing you know, you’ll see Jesus face to face.’ ‘No, you don’t understand,’ he said. ‘He comes and visits me every month.'”
The woman asked, “You come and visit him every month?” Darrell said through his tears, “Yes, we sit together and watch the singing program every month.”
She looked at Darrell up and down. “I didn’t know Jesus was fat and bald!”
Sometimes, helping others we don’t know can be uncomfortable at first. It can be awkward and not always feel genuine. However, if we reach beyond ourselves and see the needs of others, not only can we make a difference in someone else’s life, but in our own as well. Darrell’s true story is an amazing example of how a small gesture can be so powerful to someone else.
“The King [Jesus] will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” Matthew 25:40
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms,” 1 Peter 4:10