It’s caring that matters


Sir Wilfred Grenfel was a medical missionary to Labrador. The stories from his life thrilled and inspired me as a boy growing up. One of the stories he told, a true story, was about an army officer in World War I.

It was a bitter cold night at the front line trenches. The officer was touring the various sentry posts when he came upon one of the guards asleep at his post. Sleeping while on guard is the most serious of offenses, especially in wartime, and the young soldier was subject to general court-martial.

As he talked with the young man, the officer noticed that he was only a boy. Furthermore he noticed that the young sentry was so cold his teeth were chattering. Immediately he saw the reason why—the boy had no topcoat.

Taking off his own coat, he gave it to the lad and went on his way checking the other sentry posts. Sleet began to fall and the icy wind blew harder and harder. By the time he reached the guardhouse the officer was half-frozen. They put him to bed with chills. Later it developed into pneumonia. Delirious with a fever, he dreamed that he died.

He found himself walking down the street of the celestial city when suddenly he saw in the distance a man coming toward him. He thought it looked like Jesus. As he came closer, he realized it was Jesus, and he was wearing the officer’s topcoat. There was a warm loving smile and then came the words: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

It is caring that matters most. It expresses itself in many ways. It may mean a kind word, a letter of encouragement, or a telephone call saying, “I was just wondering how you are doing?’

Bishop Fredrick Warnecke once told about a lonely man who felt so rejected and unloved that he decided to kill himself by throwing himself into the river. As he began the walk down to the river’s edge, he said to himself, “If I meet someone who looks at me as if he cared one way or the other, then I will not take my life.”

There the Bishop ended his story. Did the man meet someone? I don’t know. But if he had met you or me, would he have turned back? Rev. Nichols is Minister Emeritus of First Christian Church, Temple, where he was senior minister for 23 years before retiring. He writes a religious column for several newspapers.

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2012-07-26 digital edition

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