One sleepy Sunday afternoon I was going about my business in the back yard and saw through the chain link fence that someone had apparently taken a spill on his bike and was lying on the ground. I called campus safety and while I waited for an officer I noticed at least four cars and two bikers go by without even slowing. Once the officer arrived, and I knew it was safe to approach, I realized it was one of my neighbors from the retirement facility across the street. I would often see him cycling in the neighborhood collecting recyclables. Although he was twisting in pain he didn’t seem to have any cuts, bruises or broken bones. We tried talking with him, but he was slurring his speech, having difficulty concentrating and responding to questions with answers that weren’t quite making sense.
I must admit my first thought was that he was under the influence. But, after EMS checked him out we learned he was suffering from very low blood sugar and as soon as they treated him the neighbor I had come to know began to resurface. I have since contemplated many things about that interaction: the folks who went by without stopping (although it’s hard not to be judgmental, I don’t know the circumstances as to why they did not help); the outcome had no one helped; the realization that I too have “gone by” difficult, inconvenient, awkward, time-consuming and intimidating opportunities where I could have provided care; and, unfortunately, that not all opportunities to provide care are as clear as this one.
Timothy W. Herrmann, in the book A Calling to Care: Nurturing College Students Towards Wholeness, says “That we are called to be concerned for our brothers and sisters, care for the other, and especially care for the most vulnerable need not be argued here. It is one of the clearest themes in Scripture, and it is among the most recognizable aspects of Jesus’s earthly ministry. In fact, care is so central that to call it an ‘aspect’ is misleading; it is a purpose, a method, and a manner more than it is simply a component. It can be reasonably argued that it was the medium through which Christ illustrated who he was and who we are to him.”
Have you ever really thought through what it means to care for someone or something? Is it giving gifts, special attention, saying nice things, providing rewards for good work, baking cookies, fixing something, paying it forward or writing encouraging notes? We all have our special ways of providing care. Usually it reflects our personality, our God-given gifts and talents and even at times our own preferences. But, as people who have been called to be like Christ, I have often wondered if the call to care requires something more. It takes very little contemplation for the idea to become complex and difficult.
Herrmann goes on to say “care is as much about ‘who we are’…as it is about ‘what we do’…to care for students is to educate them well, to help them develop a strong sense of calling, to help them wrestle honestly with the big questions of life, to help them develop strong social skills and connections, to help them gain self-awareness, to help them develop and embrace a worldview that will guide them through the storms of life, to help them develop self-discipline and to help them grow in Christlikeness.” These all seem easy and simple, but they often happen through hard conversations, failures, bumps and bruises. After all, most of us must test run other’s ideas, knowledge and wisdom before we make them our own.
It’s challenging to expand our scope of caring to include things like going to the hard places with people, being honest when you know it’s going to hurt and even when it’s going to disadvantage you. Caring can be uncomfortable, uncertain and awkward. It can be messy, confusing and humbling. It’s not what I think of when asked “Where is your happy place?” It most definitely feels like you’re going against the flow. It requires a commitment to a higher understanding of purpose and a willingness to let Christ be your defender and shield. It demands more grace than we humanly have to give.
Regretfully, I admit that it seems like caring for students is far easier than caring for others…after all, students are our calling. However, I often fail and find it more difficult to offer the same care to my colleagues, friends and family. Isn’t it also our calling to care for each other? I have hope and confidence that Christ will continue to do the work he has already started in me so that it becomes more of who I am and not just what I do.
A Chance to Care
There is a chance today to answer Pam’s call and demonstrate God’s “purpose, method and manner” through the Community Care Fund (CCF), which helps members of the Fresno Pacific family with immediate, short-term needs. We on the Community Care Committee see this work as a privilege because one of us was a recipient of the fund and felt blessed and humbled that the FPU community reached out.
Over the years, folks like you have donated to this fund and blessed faculty, staff and others with a helping hand through difficulties, tragedies and other deep waters in their lives. Right now, we have another opportunity to assist a fellow community member who’s need is huge, but we have only about $1,000 in the fund.
November is the month of our favorite holiday—Thanksgiving. During this blessed time we pause to acknowledge our gratitude to the Lord and, perhaps, to each other for all the rich blessings we have received throughout the year. But so often in the Bible we read that the way to say thank you to the Lord is to love one another in tangible ways, especially when they are hurting.
Contribute to the CCF at fresno.edu/give/giving-opportunities. Click on Give Now, then note in Comments that your gift is for the Community Care Fund. There is also a Give option on the bottom of all pages of fresno.edu.
Would you all join us in making your best contribution now to this fund, so we can indeed love one another well, especially those who need our help? Thank you.
—Connie McNeely, advancement office manager and scholarship coordinator; Walter Saul, D.M.A., professor of music; and W. Marshall Johnston, Ph.D., associate professor of history