NORMAN — “Jesus never went out of his way to help any one.” I can sense the hair beginning to bristle on a thousand necks right now. Before people reach for their pitchforks and look around for some tar and feathers, let me just say that the words are taken from Quaker pastor Phil Gulley’s book, “Hometown Tales” in which he observes that “Jesus never went out of his way to help anybody” because helping people was never “out of his way.”
Helping others was the whole purpose of his life. It’s what he lived for. His legendary life of love is the reason he is revered by believers and non-believers alike. We love his story because it mirrors back to us the goodness we strive for and only occasionally glimpse within ourselves. But we all want to believe that such goodness is possible. Most of us feel we are doing our best simply by loving and providing for those within the inner orbit of family and friends. Content to write the occasional check for charity, helping strangers is not a full-time occupation for us.
But there are those around us who do more. Years ago my mother lived in a retirement community in Norman. Some of the folks there developed strong friendships, others kept to themselves. One winter someone there began pulling the fire alarm in the middle of the night — a lot.
Four or five times a week, the fire department would arrive amidst the high drama of wailing sirens, blaring horns and flashing lights. After a week of this you can imagine the prevailing mood among a hundred senior citizens forced from their beds into a cold parking lot in their pajamas at 3 a.m. Though the firefighters resembled giant killer bees in their black and yellow outfits, Grandma was ready to do some swatting. It may have been their fourth visit that week and, they too, had been awakened in the middle of the night, but the firefighters remained unfailingly polite and patient. That’s professionalism.