Jesus never just saw people.
He noticed them.
A few months ago, my son taught me an incredible lesson about how important it is to notice. The story involves our incredible neighbors, a perceptive six-year-old, and Dad trying to figure this whole ‘parenting thing’ out.
I’ll never forget the concerned look on his face. His eyebrows pulled up making a taunt line across his forehead.
“Daddy, there’s an ambulance outside,” he said with urgency. “It’s at Bob and Norma’s house – Come on – look!”
I stepped out of bed. The floor was cold. Carston, my six-year-old son, took my hand and quickly led me to his room. I picked him up as we looked out the window together. The red light from the ambulance flashed on inside of the curtain.
“Daddy – what should we do?”
Amazing. In the heart of my six-year-old, the veil between noticing something and acting with compassion was surprisingly thin. I’m an adult. I’ve seen thousands of ambulances in my life. I’ve seen them. But somewhere along the way I stopped noticing them. I stood there that November morning in silence – stunned at my son’s spiritual perception.
“Daddy – should we go help?”
I honestly didn’t know what to tell him. Bob and Norma are great neighbors for a young family like us. Several years ago, Bob had a stroke. He’s functional, but dependent on Norma’s constant care and support. Norma always waves to the kids when we’re outside. She keeps an eye on the house when we’re out of town. She even brings over strawberry-rhubarb jam to test out on us. Sometimes we’ll help her out with her yard work, or clear the snow during the winter. We have a great relationship.
And yet here I was – a Christian – a pastor – a parent. Seeing my neighbor in trouble. I just didn’t know what to do – what to tell my son.
“Here’s what we’ll do, buddy,” I found myself saying. “Let me find out what’s going on. I’ll let you know when you get home from school today. In the meantime, let’s pray, okay?” I know that sounds kinda like procrastination, but it was the best thing I could think of.
“Okay, Daddy,” Carston said.
So we prayed. By the time I got dressed, the ambulance was gone. I gave Norma a call an hour later. (She stays in contact through her iPad and cell phone. She’s pretty savvy for an 83-year old makes strawberry-rhubarb jam). As it turns out, Bob had been diagnosed with pneumonia and was admitted to a nearby hospital. I asked her if she’d like me to come by for a visit. She said sure – she thought Bob would appreciate it. While the boys were still in school, I spent an hour with Norma and Bob at the hospital. We prayed together. Norma cracked a few jokes. I reciprocated and threw a few her way. At one point, Bob even laughed so hard he accidentally pulled the i.v. out of his arm. We had a great time.
Here’s the thing: That whole day began with my son noticing something. Something that probably wouldn’t have showed up on my radar screen.
That morning, I would have checked my email, scanned my Twitter feed, glanced at the weather forecast, but I wouldn’t have even looked out the window.
As church leaders, we see really well.
But why do you think it’s so hard for us to notice?