ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By
Joseph Walker

ACTS OF EVERYDAY HUMAN DECENCY

It’s cold here today.

A late winter storm has blustered into the area, shocking the cheeriness out of the bright yellow crocuses that were blooming yesterday in our flower bed.  We didn’t get a ton of snow – only a thin blanket of white covers the yards and streets.  But a stern wind from the north has turned the snow to ice, and everyone is once again wearing their thick winter sweaters and coats.

Because it’s cold.  The kind of cold that makes you feel sorry for penguins.  The kind of cold that makes Hades seem like a lovely vacation spot.  The kind of cold that permeates every crack and crevice, and penetrates right to the bone.

Yeah, that kind of cold.

This would have been a miserable day to be without a furnace.  And that was the prospect Marilyn (not her real name) was facing.  Her furnace went out several days ago, and she has been unsuccessful in several attempts to get a repair person to come to her home – especially when she acknowledged that she wouldn’t be able to pay for the service call up front.  A fiercely independent single mom, Marilyn has been able to provide for her family very well until recently, when a series of unforeseen events left her unemployed.  She has excellent prospects for the future, but for right now things are a little tight.

And right now it’s cold.

When she came to church on Sunday a member of the congregation noticed how cold her arm was.  She laughingly explained the situation and said confidently that they would be OK – they had plenty of blankets.

But that wasn’t good enough for Kevin.  When he heard about Marilyn’s plight he made an appointment to go check out her furnace for himself.  Kevin is handy, and knows his way around mechanical stuff.  But Marilyn’s furnace had him stumped.  So he called Brian, a neighbor who has experience working on furnaces and such.  Turns out Brian has the exact same kind of furnace that Marilyn has.  In no time Brian had the problem figured out, went back to his house and returned with the parts needed to get Marilyn’s furnace up and running.

Just in time for today’s cold.

“I can’t believe how lucky it was that you had the exact parts we needed,” Kevin said as the two men left Marilyn’s suddenly warm little house.  “Do you have a spare of everything?”

Brian smiled shyly.  “Well, actually,” he said, “it wasn’t really a luck thing. I just took the parts out of our furnace.”

Kevin looked at him, stunned.  “So basically you shut your furnace down so you could fix Marilyn’s?” he asked.

“It’s not a big deal,” Brian said.  “We mostly use our wood burning stove to heat our house anyway.”

“But what about the storm that’s coming?” Kevin wondered.  “It’s going to get awfully cold and snowy . . .”

“We’ll be fine,” Brian said. “Honest.  She needs the furnace more than we do.”

And as far as Brian was concerned, that was all that mattered.  Someone else needed what he had, so he gave it to them.  They needed his skill, so he shared it.  They needed is judgment, so he offered it.  They needed furnace parts, so he transplanted parts from his own furnace to theirs – even though it meant facing a late winter storm with only a wood burning stove to heat his house.  Call it kindness.  Call it benevolence.  Call it compassion.  Call it love.  All I know is when I see such acts of everyday human decency, it warms my heart with hope.

Even when it’s cold.

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— © Joseph Walker

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Look What Love Has Done:  Five-Minute Messages to Lift Your Spirit. 

"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen?  Home Remedies for an Ailing World."