About three weeks ago on my way to work two teen boys were walking ahead of me to school. But they stopped and made a detour. One pulled out a pack of cigarettes. They both lit up and began smoking. I kept walking and passed them by. As I sat at my desk, I felt convicted that I had behaved like the Priest and Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25 ff).
I was having an internal struggle as I talked to myself: it’s none of my business; it’s their choice. But no matter how much I tried to justify my actions, I was not at peace with myself.
Was I just reacting to the realities that living in Geneva meant accepting smoking as a social norm? Was it because I was looking at the situation through the eyes of being a father (of teens) and that they were hiding this activity from their parents? Was it that I was ‘pastor mode’? Or was it the Holy Spirit’s conviction?
So this morning on my way to the office, guess who should be walking in front of me again? Yep! Guess who made the same detour? Yep! Guess what I did this time? Yep! I stopped!
I greeted them with a warm “good morning” and asked if I could join them. (I was going for the non-intimidating approach). Sure, they said and offered me a cigarette, which I politely refused.
I introduced myself and began the conversation with this burning question: do your parents know what you’re doing? They both said no. And so for the next few minutes I just shared with them how their secret actions, as teens, can erode the trust between them and their parents which could lead to some unintended consequences. They listened.
The one who offered me the cigarette took two puffs while I was talking, then stopped. But the other had stopped after my first question. We ended on a very cordial manner, shaking hands.
My Disclaimer: I am not bashing smokers! What this experience has brought home to me is the value of what I have captured as my focus for today: CARE ENOUGH TO STOP. When we do, then it is also a moment that provides the opportunity for us to STOP, TO CARE.
Day after day, we are engaged in the task of drawing attention to global matters: Justice, Migration, HIV/AIDS, Inter-Faith Relations, Racism, Environment, Water, Gender Equality etc. Are these important? Yes! They deserve the attention given. But while we sit at our desk and develop programs to impact the global discourse, let us also ask the Holy Spirit to draw our attention to the smaller issues that may pass before us.
When that happens, it may provide us with some surprising answers to the same question which was asked of Jesus – “And who is my neighbour?”
Prayer: God, as we continue to journey during this Lenten season, open our eyes to see our neighbours; open our ears to listen to our neighbours; and open our hearts to care about the well-being of our neighbours. As we do so offering compassion to our neighbours, cause them to do the same for us. Help us to stop, to care, so that we never stop caring. Amen.