Sky News online carried this story today:
An Australian man who stopped countless people from jumping to their deaths at a notorious Sydney beauty spot called ‘The Gap’ has died…
Mr Ritchie would simply walk up to people standing close to the edge and ask gently: “Is there something I could do to help you?” which would often be enough to make people rethink their actions…
He told his daughter an offer of help “was all that was often needed to turn people around, and he would say not to underestimate the power of a kind word and a smile”
Hundreds of people have been saved from a needless death by the kindness of this man. He was on the alert for those in need. He didn’t leave the responsibility to others. He acted with kindness and a smile.
I may never know the undercurrents of hurt, anguish, fear and torment that flow in the lives of those I meet. But maybe a word of kindness and a smile can lift them a little. I have noticed that miserable looking check out assistants, for example, often brighten up and become lively and engaging, when I smile and say something pleasant to them.
Don Ritchie has been a challenge to me to maintain a caring attitude and not be shy to ask: “Is there something I can do to help you?”
The Christmas meal that had been planned for our church family last year was cancelled. The heavy snow and underlying ice made travel treacherous. So we had our get-together this week instead – complete with Christmas gifts!
On the way back home, as I walked to the car, I spotted some straggly looking plants in the border of the restaurant. In the half-light I could see that they were lavender bushes. Out of a gardener’s habit, rather than hope, I brushed my hands over the somewhat dried foliage and flower stalks. The pungent, unmistakeable fragrance of lavendar rose in the night air and clung to the palm of my hand! It was unbelievable. After almost a month of sitting under 2-3 feet of snow, the flower stalks still stood tall. Though they had been frozen rigid for so long, once rubbed, the little dried lavender flowers were exuding their scent.
How do I react when circumstances leave me cold? Do I simply wither inside when things are not going well for me? Do I turn into myself and give nothing to others?
I believe that God wants us to be like that lavender.
- We can, with his help, rest in him even when the burden that is weighing on us lingers longer than we would like.
- We can stand up tall again, and not give in, even when we have been knocked flat. We can be, as JB Philips put it, “…knocked down but not knocked out” (2 Corinthians 4:9)!
- And we can also exude the fragrance of Christ, especially when someone of something bumps against us, “rubs us up the wrong way”, bruises and wounds us.
I want to live daily in Christ’s presence, growing more like him, absorbing the atmosphere of heaven. Then, when pressures and troubles come, when I am suffering, something of the beauty and fragrance of Christ will be released to those around me.
There is no red, green or gold in this Christmas image. Not everyone will have a happy time on the 25th, with friends and family around them. There will be many for whom it will be a miserable time. As soon as I saw Matt’s picture I heard the song running through my brain:
I’ll have a blue Christmas without you
I’ll be so blue just thinking about you
Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree
Won’t be the same dear, if you’re not here with me.
Blue Christmas – Words and music by Jay Johnson and Billy Hayes
So at this festive time, spare a thought for those who are missing someone. The single parents, struggling without a partner to make Christmas a great time for their children. Or those who have lost a loved one this year, or many years ago, and for whom the pain is so raw at Christmas.
I was very touched to read a blog post by Kim Anderson, whose father died from cancer nine years ago. Kim says:
The holiday season makes the empty chair around the family table even more noticeable to those of us who have lost a loved one. Holidays can be a difficult time for those experiencing grief. Children notice the empty space, too, and it’s important to include them in remembering a loved one.
Kim gives some very practical suggestions to help you and your family honour and remember a loved one during this season. I heartily recommend her whole post. In addition to ideas for some very practical and helpful activities, she also points us to Christ, the source of comfort. You can read “Facing the Empty Chair at the Holidays” here.