I tend to come across a little cynical. I’ve been told that if I ever gave up sarcasm the only way I could communicate would be through interpretive dance. I’m a little more positive than I might seem. In the work I do, I do see the absolute worst in people. On the flip-side, I get to bump up against some truly outstanding and generous people. We could not care for our large family, and push forward in the work God has called us to do, without others. We’ve been privileged to see hundreds of incredibly generous, gifted, and creative people who faithfully show up to work alongside us.
The “bad guys” get the press, but in the midst of the worst situations, the first responders and “helpers” show up. For every mass shooter, there are hundreds of stories of “normal” people stepping up to help the wounded and care for survivors. For every horrific story of abuse, there are thousands of untold stories of normal people reaching out to make a difference in the lives of people in need. There is an old line in the news industry: “if it bleeds it leads.” The bloodier and worse the story is the better it sells. But, these stories make up a very small percentage of any community.
Over many years of managing our orphanage, we’ve been privileged to see the very best of humanity. Here are a few of those stories.
A couple we barely knew started to donate monthly after they had a tour of our home. Monthly donors are not that uncommon, but they were donating about $500 a month – this is substantially more than most people commit to. We were very grateful, I just assumed that they were people of “means,” and our orphanage was just one of many things they donated towards. We sent them thank you letters, they sent us checks, and that was the extent of the relationship. After a few years, they asked about stopping by to touch bases. While we were out to dinner their story slowly came into focus, I realized I had made some VERY wrong assumptions. One of them was a school teacher, and one was a substitute teacher. They lived in a humble house in Arizona; their rent was less than what they sent to us. They spent most of their time reading and studying languages. They lived a very simple life. They had decided to take what little they had and make a difference. The $500 a month they were sending us was not a random donation among many; they were actively living below their means to support orphans. The $500 they were sending was a sacrifice. They will never be written about (other than here), most people will never know of their giving, but every day they chose to give to something bigger than they are.
About 12 years ago Doug “retired” from being an electrician. I put retired in quotes for a reason. He’s still a full-time electrician it’s just that now his reward is very different. Years ago Doug started doing the electrical work for a small ministry in Baja, and it took over his life. He could be laying on a beach, maybe fishing somewhere. He could be taking up bridge or gardening. Nope. He pulls wire. He installs light fixtures. About twice a week he travels from his home in California to one of the several projects in Baja where he is the “electrical guy.” His current project is a very large, free medical clinic being built in a small town about one hour south of the border. Sometimes his wife comes along, many times she doesn’t, but Doug is faithful to do his part to serve the needy in Baja. There will never be a statue in his honor, his work will never make the news, but he is literally bringing light to the darkness. He brings light with both wire, and with his infectious and ever-present smile. He has found joy, and his calling, in service.
Sometimes, people just think outside the norm. We have a LOT of groups that do crafts, play soccer, maybe make a meal for our kids. I’ve seen more piñatas than anyone should see in a lifetime. There are tried and true ways to help. All these things are good, but sometimes a group really knocks one out of the park. We had one small church approach us about trying something different. They came in and took over a large multi-purpose room and turned it into a day-spa. They brought in artsy candles, calm music, comfortable chairs, wall hangings and curtains for privacy, etc. Now, you might be thinking: “Why does five-year-old Jose need a day spa? That’s just weird.” This group had a different vision, they knew what it was like to care for others full time, and they knew our staff needed a break. They came in with the goal of serving the caregivers in our home. They gave pedicures to our cooks who are on their feet all day and have been for years. They gave manicures to the ladies in the nursery who use their hands to change dozens of diapers every day. They gave back rubs to the “playground staff” who need to chase, pick-up, and care for crowds of toddlers every day. To be honest, our staff was a little uncomfortable at first. They were not used to being cared for in this way. Once our staff understood what was going on, it turned into a very special event. It’s not often you get to see the example of foot washing that Jesus gives us, played out in such a tangible way.
I could go on for many pages sharing about the incredible people that God uses in creative and unexpected ways. The point is, there are many more people doing phenomenal things, than the few who shock us with evil. In the midst of natural or man-made disasters, remember that everyday people representing the best of humanity are there also.
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