Here are two more vignettes. None of them has been profound (or will be) but I share them to illustrate the values of Baptist Women. Both stories talk about kindness.
The second mile (or bus)
In many developing countries the public transit system consists of a myriad of decrepit mini-vans. City streets are a sea of blue-and-white Toyotas that were decommissioned decades ago. The seats may be torn but you hardly notice as you sit packed together.
The drivers’ profit comes from cramming in as many people as possible, with the shortest stopping time possible. In most cases the van starts pulling away before the side door is completely closed.
One time I needed to transfer in a different part of Luanda, the capital city of Angola, and I got lost. The safest people in a post-war country are often the mothers selling vegetables . . . so I found one and asked for directions.
She left her meagre pile and motioned for me to follow. We walked down the street and around the corner to a long queue of mini-vans. She picked one out for me, and I thanked her and got on. As I made my way to a space in the back I turned to see her talking to the driver.
Some distance down the road the mini-van stopped unexpectedly. The driver put the gear in Park and walked back to where I sat. “You get off here,” he said. I thanked him and headed to the front. He surprised me by getting off the van, walking to a different one and directing that driver to take me to a particular place. That stop must have taken him several minutes.
He was under time pressure; she was desperately poor; I was a foreigner. They both made sacrifices to be kind to someone they would never see again.
What does it take to be truly present?
Now travel with me back to Canada, to a sunny afternoon on a busy downtown street in London, Ontario.
It was quite a while ago. I was a teenager!
As I walked down the crowded sidewalk, I saw the pastor of our small church. He was some distance away, walking toward me at quite a clip. He didn’t see me until he was about to pass by. I said hi quickly, assuming he must be in a hurry or late for an appointment.
But he stopped immediately. He smiled and started chatting. In fact, he seemed so relaxed that I decided I must have been mistaken: he seemed to have all the time in the world. After a bit, we said goodbye and started heading in our different directions. I turned and saw him rushing away. He had been in a hurry . . . but he had stopped for me. I can still picture where I was standing the moment I realized that.
He had been fully present. He hadn’t felt any need to signal any time limit to our conversation.
Those few, unhurried minutes made a huge difference in my self-esteem. They also impacted how I saw the whole church.
I’m regularly reminded of how I need to emulate him.