I will call him Roy. He is loud. He usually invades my personal space when he talks to me. His behavior occasionally disrupts my sermons. He has been known to dominate my time in public settings. He bombards with a constant stream of questions every time I see him. He is not a 5 year old. Roy is a mentally challenged man in his early 30’s.
After early service was over yesterday, I was particularly tired for some reason. Preaching requires a huge amount of adrenalin. I was looking forward to a short break before the second go around. All that I could think about was that nice warm cup of coffee that was waiting for me in the Fellowship Center. I had not even gotten close to the coffee pot when I heard Roy , and not the coffee pot, calling out my name. I was at least one cup of java shy of dealing with him that early in the morning.
In one of my rare moments of true kindness, I greeted Roy warmly. He asked me: “What are you doing?” “I am headed to the coffee pot Roy.” (I left out the part about wanting to be left alone.) Then I asked him: “What are you doing?” His reply was not what I expected… He said: “I have just been waiting here, so I could say hi to you.”
Why are there never any deep holes handy when you need one to crawl into? He caught me speechless. I felt like a pompous fool. I regained my composure quickly, and the conversation continued. I joked around with Roy. I asked him the questions instead of putting him in the position of doing that with me. Isn’t that what we always do with people that we are genuinely interested in getting to know?
Being engaged in conversation with Roy yesterday was good for me. I had to practice a principle that I firmly believe. The principle is as follows: How do you treat the truly vulnerable among us when you think nobody is looking? How do treat the little elderly lady that holds up traffic with her snail’s pace? How do you interact with the social misfits at school or at work? And how do you communicate with the mentally challenged person who wants to be your friend? How do you treat such individuals when you assume that nobody is paying attention to your actions? In my estimation, this is a true test of a person’s character… Roy reminded me of my own life principle that I firmly believe in. And I am grateful for him today.