Visiting with our friend John is somewhat exhausting. There is so much wrong in the world—this being a point on which we all agree—but when we get together, I wish that just even once in a while, we could just leave the world and its troubles alone for a brief moment and catch up on something more—uhm—shallow…(did I just say that?) like my discovery of a great new Greek yogurt flavor, for example. Whatever. Just a few less rants…that’s all I ask.
No matter where we begin, it is not long before we find ourselves immersed in a swamp of the world’s ineptitude, corruption, lack of discipline, and become privy to his general disgust for a variety of institutions large and small—beginning and ending always with the government and incorporating a heavy dose of the word “disaster”. I leave these gatherings tired. These issues are so much bigger than we are. We each throw our own tiny pebbles of good into the ocean of need and hope that a ripple will form but soon walk away as the water envelopes our futile fragments, not even so much as forming a dent in the vast expanse. John’s passion is palpable and exhausting.
But far from exhausting John, I recently learned that it moved him to quiet and courageous action. A flawed world filled with suffering people. What to do? Well, a few weeks ago, John knew what to do. Late one evening I received a text from John’s wife that simply said something like, “John has gone downtown tonight to save his bridge people from freezing to death (literally). He doesn't think they will make it in this cold.” I punched into my phone the city where John lives and was shocked to see that this normally balmy city’s temperature had plummeted to a frigid 20 degrees.
Mind you, as his wife so succinctly said, these were John’s people. His passion for the injustices of the world indeed did not burn itself out in talk but rather ignited in him a desire to plumb the depths of human suffering with the homeless and nearly-homeless population in his own metropolitan area. That night, he left his own warm home and drove downtown, filled his vehicle with his homeless friends and found them a warm place to sleep that night. He has helped them learn employment and other life skills. He has bought them bicycles. He has even helped them with their laundry. He has shown a remarkable amount of courage, integrity, and compassion. He is fearless. Talk on, dear John. The floor is yours.