I met Marshall last week. I was working behind the coffee bar at church. Out of the busyness of barista-ing, I heard Marshall say, “Excuse me, sir. I had an accident.” I stopped what I was doing. I came out from the bar. Marshall spilled some coffee. It wasn’t a big deal. Not much of a mess. He wanted to clean up his own mess. I saw embarrassment on his face. We cleaned up his mess together.
I sat Marshall in a chair in our common area. He sat with me in a half sweated through white t-shirt. He continued to spill. The tremors in his hands rebelling against the command of his mind. I asked him his situation. He told me part of his story. He was in an auto accident a few years ago, . It left him in a coma for 3 months. He lived in a nursing home for 2 years after that. He lives at home now. Marshall is around 27.
I saw Marshall after the service. I asked him how it was. He enjoyed the message. I asked him if he was coming back. He wasn’t sure. He felt uncomfortable. He felt like everyone was staring at him like he was out of place, like he wasn’t wanted there. We assured Marshall he was wanted. We invited him back.
The next Sunday, I walked off stage after choir rehearsal. He was at the coffee bar. Marshall smiled. He stuck his hand out to shake my hand. His hand trembled. I replied with my hand. He asked me if I could help put a lid on his cup of water. I secured the lid. He told me he brought something. He digs through his messenger bag. After a few moments of rummaging, Marshall pulls out a beat up photo album. I ask what they are. He says, “They’re pictures from my accident.”
I sat with Marshall looking through his photos. He sat with a boot on a broken foot. His tracheotomy scars peeked out from his shirt. Pictures of him in a coma. Pictures of family. Pictures of a nursing home. Pictures of a car that was totally destroyed. A dozen bracelets from hospitals. I asked him about the pictures. He’d tell me who was who. He told me about the accident.
I asked Marshall about himself. Marshall told me about his problems with truancy when he was growing up. How he overcame them to graduate high school. He shared Psalm 70 with me. He told me how he does bad things (Smokes weed). He told me about the pain that attacks his body from his foot, to his hip up through his spine. The pain is unpredictable. It’s unimaginable he says. I’d be smoking weed, too, if I were him. I can see he carries guilt and shame heavily on his shoulders like a sack of potatoes. It shows in his moistened, deep eyes. I tell him, “Marshall, you’re alright. You might not think so. But it’s true.” Shortly after, I got up to rejoin the choir for our service.
I don’t know where this relationship is going with Marshall. He might be a seed washing by me in the flow of life that keeps tumbling down the stream. Or he could be a seed that finds fertile soil near my feet and grows into something life bearing. Or maybe I’m the seed tumbling past him. We’ll see.
During our conversation, I asked Marshall, “Why did you come back today?” He looked me directly in the eyes. He said, “You.” I paused poignantly in the weight of silence.
You can help people who are lost get found. You can lift people to safety from dark and frightening waters. You help others find safety. Whether it’s the person who works for you, your boyfriend, your boss, an old friend who crossed your mind, or a stranger who’s crossing the street.
It’s easy to throw self-help guidance, Scripture and free advice towards people. The words are vapor in the wind.
Throw yourself at them. Have an impact.
The question isn’t whether you can. It is whether you will.
- I heard what you can’t do. What can you do? (ericwarheit.com)
- How to Create High-Impact Disruption In Management and Win a Prize (blogs.hbr.org)