Friday, July 15, 2011

Lawn Chair Guy and a Kidney Stone

It hit me on a Monday afternoon as I came home from work. It started as a dull ache that made me nauseous, but grew to a violent burning sensation deep in my side. I was home alone that afternoon and had no idea what has happening to me. After an hour of trying to find relief in a variety of ways, I came to the conclusion that I needed help. I needed to go to the hospital and I needed help getting there. My wife was on her way home from work, but I couldn’t stand it anymore so I called 911.

When the paramedics arrived, they quickly assessed that I was not in grave danger but was, most likely, struggling with a kidney stone. My blood pressure was high so they were interested in getting the pain under control and decided to transport me to the hospital. I was all for it. I wanted this to stop as soon as possible. Later, I learned that women who have endured both kidney stones and natural childbirth would rather endure labor pain! As much as I wanted relief, I was a bit embarrassed to have so much attention given to a little stone; and sure enough, the ride down my driveway on the ambulance gurney was what I would later call, “The Ride of Shame.” Concerned neighbors had gathered on my yard to see what was happening, wondering if I was having a heart attack or if a home repair project had gone bad… again. As they rolled me down the driveway I could hear my wife reassure them that I would be fine but we needed to get the pain under control.

As they got me to the back of the ambulance, I noticed something across the street that caught my attention and later stuck in my mind. Across from my house, are five baseball fields and it was the time of evening when teams were warming up before their games. What caught my eye was a dad who had planted himself in a lawn chair near a scoreboard for the evening. He had a small cooler next to his chair and an open newspaper in front of him. When I first noticed him, he was reading his paper, facing the baseball field. But when they wheeled me to the ambulance, I watched him stand up, turn his chair to face my driveway, sit back down, grab a beverage from the cooler, and begin talking to who-knows-who on his cell phone. I’ll be honest with you, in the depth of my pain, I had thoughts of using a finger gesture and yelling sarcastically, “Thanks for the help buddy! Glad you could be entertained by my little fiasco! Show’s over!” But, I refrained.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve thought about that guy. Why did he bug me in that moment? Did I really expect him to come to my aid? What if I was lying bloodied, alone, on the side of the road? Would he find a way to help me or would he crack another Diet Coke and grab the sports section? Would he serve or would he stay a spectator? It seemed he was comfortable, if not entertained, in the latter.

Several days later, I was still struggling with this stupid kidney stone. Instead of being in pain, I was doped up with narcotics. The good news was the pain was under control. The bad news was I wasn’t able to function much because of the pain meds. When my issues began that Monday, I had just loaded a trailer of books and items from my office at the Cascade Campus to be moved to my new office at the Kentwood Campus; I was not able to unload the trailer that day. All week, my things were in an uncovered trailer in my driveway. So when Kevin, a friend and colleague, called to see how I was doing, he asked if I needed anything done. When I mentioned my books in my driveway and how I was growing concerned about a storm rolling in, without hesitation Kevin rearranged his schedule, drove from the north side of town, picked up my trailer, filled my car with gas, unloaded all my stuff in my new office and returned.

Perhaps God allowed me to notice the “lawn chair guy” just so I could experience the sharp contrast between someone being a spectator and someone being a servant in a time of need. It seems to me that was one of the major points that Jesus was making in the story about the Good Samaritan. I know that too often in my life I walk past people in need, thinking they should be someone else’s problem.

Spectator or servant? Who will you be today when another person’s need crosses your path?

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