Signs of Hope in the Words and Acts of Ordinary People

October 16, 2011

One of the things I hope every week is that I have something worthwhile to say on this blog.  So far my hope has been fulfilled. But recently I was losing hope. There was so much bad news. People were getting sick and dying from eating bad canteloupes. There were the usual murders in Philadelphia   (the city pf brotherly love? – really?), efforts at peace talks between Israel and Palestine had again failed, and the leaders of the USA in Washington were again attacking each other instead of cooperating in attacking the nation’s problems. I could go on and on. But I think you get the picture.

Anyway, on Monday morning last week it came down to this. I was hoping I could just see some signs of hope. Just a little bit of good news in the midst of all this bad news. The day didn’t start off so well. I was hoping to start writing the blog for the next week. But there was a computer problem which took a while to straighten out. Then I tried to order some pizzas for lunch on-line. But the on-line pizza ordering process was new to me. It wasn’t going well. By the time I got done the whole morning had gone by.

Now it was time for Joan(my wife) and me to go to the doctor to get our flu shots. Usually when we go to the doctor’s office we get there on time, but have to wait at least a half hour before we see the doctor. I envisioned the usual waiting period. However, this time the doctor’s assistant was available to give us the flu shots immediately.  No waiting. We were in and out in ten minutes. Good news?

Next it was time to pick up the pizzas I ordered on-line. Itwas to be ready at 2 PM. But because we got in and out of the doctor’s office so fast, we were a half hour too early to pick up the pizza. So I was resigned to waiting in the pizza place for the next half hour. But as it turned out, the person at the counter said he would take care of us right away. It would only take about ten minutes. And so it did. More good news?

With our pizzas in the back seat of our car, we started for home. But first we  had to stop at the WaWa (that’s a chain of convenience stores in Southern New Jersey). Joan has a disability which causes her to use a cane and move very slowly. When we are entering or leaving a building I always hold the door open for her. I was about to do that when a man got to the door before I did. I assumed that, seeing how slowly Joan was walking, and that I was with her, he would go on in and let the door close on us. I didn’t see any good news there. But instead he held the door open for both of us, and he went in last. We thanked him. Right then I found myself thinking. “That was really nice of him. He didn’t have to do that. ” He didn’t know it, but he had just provided the little sign of hope I was hoping for. No question about it. This was good news in the midst of bad new

I went to the part of the store and got the items we needed. Joan wandered over to another part of the store. I found Joan at the coffee machine. There a young woman was helping her get a cup of coffee from the machine. Another sign of hope. More good news in the midst of bad news!

Then we went to the cashier to pay for what we were buying. All was going well, except the computer couldn’t read the bar code on two of the items. The cashier had to take those items to another part of the store to get that straightened out. I don’t know about you, but whenever something like that happens in the checkout line, I see that as a waste of my time –  bad news. I get really annoyed. However, this time I didn’t feel that way. I was still thinking about the good news of prompt service at the doctor’s office and the pizza place, the man holding the door open for us, and the woman helping Joan get a cup of coffee. When the cashier came back she apologized profusely for the delay. Her concern for us was another sign of hope. More good news!  We told her that she didn’t have to apologize. The delay wasn’t her fault. I hoped that our saying that was a sign of hope and good news to her.

As we neared the door to exit the building another man was about to enter. Again, he could have gotten in before we got to the door and let it close on us, but instead he also held the door for us until we were all the way out. One more sign of hope. One more example of good news in the midst of bad news! 

As we drove home, I realized that during the last three hours, God more than answered my prayer for just a little sign of hope by giving me six signs of hope. Six experiences of good news in the midst of bad news. Six ordinary people shared God’s love with two other ordinary people (Joan and me) – who they didn’t even know. I don’t know what religion, if any, those six people are part of. But as a Christian I believe that, even if they didn’t realize it, God was using them to be channels of his love for us. Once again, I am reminded that God provides signs of hope in the words and acts of ordinary people in the ordinary routines of life.

I also believe that God creates every human being with the ability to love every other human being.  I hear that message right at the beginning of the Bible – in the story of creation as told in Genesis chapter one (specifically Genesis 1:27).  Here it is written that God created human beings in God’s own image. The word image as used here does not refer to physical appearance. It refers to characteristics and qualities of God. It means that when a human being is born, God gives that person (every person) some of these characteristics and qualities. The one part of that image that transcends all others is love. In fact , it is written “God is Love” (I John 4:16).

The problem is that as human beings go through life that aspect of the image of God (love), becomes tarnished, sometimes to the point where it seems to be totally erased from the lives of some people. But it can always be cleaned and polished by God. Love can be demonstrated anywhere, anytime, and in any situation. God gives every human being various ways to demonstrate His love to others. That’s called the grace of God.

My hope is that the leaders of nations will one day realize that God has given them the capacity to love each other, and to love the people of each other’s nations. I hope that they will use that capacity to love to actually speak and act in love, as did those six ordinary people who showed love to Joan and me recently. I believe that my hope will be fulfilled, in God’s time and God’s way. I believe that’s what many of us pray for every week with the words “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Finally, I believe that until that time is fulfilled, it is part of God’s purpose that ordinary people like us will do more and more to demonstrate our love for each other. On that day a week ago, God’s purpose was being fulfilled by six ordinary people.

God be with you,   Ray

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