My hometown of Olathe, Kansas achieved international notoriety this week when a drunken loner killed an Indian immigrant who worked at Garmin in the same department as my son. I’m not going to retell that story. I can’t explain any part of it so I’m not going to try. It just serves to illustrate a bigger point I want to make regarding humanity.
After another long and stressful week on the road, I was elated to have my Saturday off because my long drive got cancelled. I’ve been fighting a virus for the last week so getting one day off to rest was a Godsend. Well, almost. About three o’clock the phone rang and I could see it was from my office. I could have ignored it and pleaded ignorance later but I chose to answer it in spite of my common sense. It was an all too familiar refrain, 14 year old boy runs away from a bad home and ends up in the system. Permanent placement was not available yet so the kid would be moved every two or three days till a long-term residence could be found. He was waiting in the Kansas City office for a ride down to a home close to the Oklahoma border. At this point I pleaded my case for not going because I felt like heck but then my boss told me his name. Obviously, I can’t use it here but he was clearly from a Muslim family so I took the job immediately. If I hadn’t, he would have sat there till midnight waiting for another driver. I took some more cold medicine and headed out for my first experience with a Muslim client.
I never got the whole story because he barely spoke above a whisper and my head was so congested I just couldn’t hear. We stopped at McDonald’s for his only meal of the day and he seemed to enjoy his shamrock shake but he still didn’t talk. I let him listen to his choice of radio station till the signal died. At that point I plugged in my iPhone and put my iTunes library on shuffle just to see what might pop up. If I ever needed a reminder of how great God really is, this was it. In His infinite wisdom He chose the following play list: Like Jesus Does by Eric Church, Everybody wants to go to Heaven by Kenny Chesney, Judge Not by Bob Marley, Someday at Christmas by Jack Johnson, Spirit in the Sky, Elton John’s cover version of Norman Greenbaum’s song about Jesus, YMCA by The Village People, Shake by Mercy Me and I Will , by Allison Krauss. I never really got a reaction out of my young friend except when he laughed as I tried to do the hand signs during YMCA. I really should download, Jesus take the wheel. Maybe not, that might be pushing my luck a little too far.
We arrived at our destination, which was way out in the country, on a beautiful starlit night. The temporary foster mom was a wonderful lady. We conversed for a few minutes and shared the little information we had between us. She added that she was waiting for two more who were in police protective custody. They arrived with the sheriff just as I was leaving. So to sum up all the peculiarities of this particular drive, we have a Muslim child being transported by a lifelong Protestant to the home of a devout Catholic while God chooses the most spiritual music He could find on my phone. Only in America would this ever happen and thankfully it happened in the Great State of Kansas just days after a great tragedy. I’m sure glad I answered the call.
The moral of the story is simple. We must help each other whenever the need arises. The bitter truth for me is that the loner who killed the immigrant lived in my neighborhood and I may have crossed his path more than once in the 30+ years I have lived here. It makes me wonder if I said hello or even smiled at him? Maybe if I had and a few more had too he wouldn’t have succumbed to the temptation of alcohol to relieve his loneliness and pain. Shame on me if I didn’t. Smiling and polite acknowledgement of another human being’s existence is about as easy as it gets. We ALL see these people every day – the loner who walks funny, or talks funny, or acts funny and we just pass them by staring at our phones or acting like we’re in a hurry. And then, when we read about their tragic life in the paper we feel shocked that anyone in our neighborhood could ever be that bad. If we search our hearts honestly, the reality becomes all too clear. We could have done more.
I’m lucky because I get paid to help children every day. For 50 hours a week I get to make a huge difference for foster kids. All I have to do is answer the call. That still leaves me with 62 hours a week that I’m not sleeping when I could be smiling at loners and talking to strangers and showing respect for others. I wonder why that never occurred to me before now ? Why is it that tragedies like this have to happen before it hits home? I’ve been alive for 63 years now and every day that I keep breathing is another opportunity to make a difference for somebody else. As I pulled into my driveway last night around midnight, Bob Marley was singing, “We don’t need no more trouble, what we need is love…” Do you think God was trying to tell me something?
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