Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Oh! Hey...Can You See?

Have you ever watched a situation unfold from a distance and were able to foresee what was about to happen?

A couple of months ago I was in New York for a lovely Saturday afternoon. A friend and I had decided to sit for a while in Columbus Circle. Columbus Circle is a round a bout on the southwest corner of Central Park. In the center of the round a bout is a statue and a series of fountains. It’s a lovely spot to watch people, and traffic, if you are so inclined to examine circular traffic patterns.

On this warm autumn day, a little boy about 7 years old was there with his dad. The little guy started walking on the cement edge of the fountain, back and forth. Soon, he was leaning on the edge of the fountain and dipping his hands into the water, gathering all the pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters that he could reach. After a while, there were no more coins within reach so he inched his body over the edge until only his feet were on the edge of the fountain and his body reached out as far as he could, without getting more than his arms wet. He picked up more coins. When I saw how this kid was finding new ways to reach and still continued to get the money that was just beyond him, I knew eventually he was going to fall in. I could see it. He was a little boy, curiously intrigued and pushing his limits. At one point he was on his tippy-toes. He wanted all the money in the fountain and he kept grasping beyond his reach. It was inevitable that there would be a splash. His dad didn’t seem to mind. Dad just let the kid clean out the fountain. Then, sure enough, his foot slipped and in an instant, his shoe was soaked. It was all downhill from there. The shoes came off and next, he’s wading in the fountain and sticking his hands in the streams of water. He gathered up every last penny with the help of a little girl who wanted in on the loot once she saw him get completely in the water. It was nearly dark when he left cold and soaking wet. There are many times in life when we get to observe from a distance. We watch friends make choices and we can see the things that they cannot. We see the ways that those choices are changing them, not always for good. We see the trouble they are walking into and consequently, the pain they will face because of it. We may try to shelter them or talk them out of it or help them see clearly but often times, our attempts to convey what we perceive, are useless. Many times a person we love will choose the path that they want, regardless of our levelheaded argument.

It takes equal parts of love, grace and compassion to continue to offer yourself to someone who knowingly walks into a dangerous situation; but that is what we must do. That is what Jesus continues to do for each of us.

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