For some reason, I assumed that it was customary and required for a person to be greeted with a fanfare of applause and praise if they saved someone’s life….. Boy was I mistaken…..
It was just another ordinary Sunday for our family. Aside from the hustle-and-bustle of preparing for a Sunday morning service, our Sundays were usually rather uneventful. We’d usually go out to eat together as a family and then rush home before a food coma settled in. On this specific Sunday, due to the eating habits of a picky pre-teen, we elected to grab burgers at Wendy’s. Our goal was to have a quick lunch and return home for our ritual of hibernation. However, our Sunday didn’t end up quite as uneventful as we had imagined.
Our arrival at Wendy’s began with a bit of an awkward encounter. It happened that we ran into one of the families from church while we waited in line. The mother seemed happy to see us and quickly greeted us with a hug. Her two teenagers had looks of apathy and frustration (as many teens do) and her 4-year old was bouncing off the walls with energy that only children can embody. Noticing that the dad wasn’t with them, I asked the family how he was doing. Before the mother could reply, the 4-year old shouted out with a loud voice, “My mommy and daddy are fighting!”, and continued to jump around in circles as she repeated, “fighting, fighting, fighting.” The poor embarrassed mother turned 10 shades of pale, while her oldest reached down and covered the mouth of the little tattle-tale. Luckily it was time for her to place her order, so she quickly ordered and ran to hide in the furthest corner of the restaurant.
Aside from us, there were only two other people in the establishment; an elderly man in a wheelchair and a middle-aged woman, dressed in scrubs, who appeared to be his care-taker. Due to the awkwardness of the earlier interaction with the members of our congregation, we chose to sit at a table, not far, from these two.
By the time that our food came out, my family and I were starving and immediately we dove into our burger and fries. I’m not much for fast food, but when hungry, even grilled cardboard sounds appealing. However, I had barely taken a few bites of my burger when I noticed that something was wrong at the nearby table. I noticed that the man in the wheel-chair was looking sick, and his care-taker seemed to be in a panic. I watched as she raised up his arms, one at a time, with a look of terror in her eyes. Then without warning she started to hit him on his back. It was at that moment that I realized that the elderly man was choking.
Without thinking twice, I ran to the man, position myself behind him, and began to administer the Heimlich maneuver. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Nevertheless, I expected my experience to be a tad bit more glorious than what resulted of this encounter.
It only took only two rapid thrusts for the food to dislodge from his windpipe and release the projectile that had threatened his life. Before I could brace for an impact, I heard a resounding splat that echoed throughout the eatery. I quickly scanned the area expecting to find the remnant of his burger sliding down one of the many windows. However, it was then that I felt something slimy dripping down my hand. Dreading what it might be, I looked down and saw my hands still locked in Heimlich position. Except, they had somehow transformed from a life-saving mechanism to a makeshift plate for a ginormous piece of what was once a hamburger patty. Suddenly my insatiable hunger that I had experienced, just moments prior, made like Houdini and escaped through the front entrance. It was gone with no hope of ever returning. Nevertheless, the hunger was replaced with a beaming sense of pride. I had just saved someone’s life. This event would be one to go down in history.
I quickly scanned the room to see if anyone had just seen what happened. Surely one of the Wendy’s staff members had seen. I was certain that I would be rewarded with a lifetime supply of Wendy’s burgers. What about the family that we had seen earlier? Surely one of them had seen what happened. Perhaps one of them would go back and share what had just happened with the church board. Maybe then I’d get the raise that they had been promising me for the past two years. Heck, maybe by chance a new reporter had just walked in and saw everything. Maybe my face would be on the front page of the paper. People would find out what church I was on staff at and our attendance would surely double over night. Sadly, the only one who saw what happened was my daughter and wife. Instead of an applause, my little girl said, “Dad, was that a piece of hamburger on your hand? That’s gross!!!” To add to my crushed ego, the caretaker returned to the table, sat down, and returned to eating her burger without even saying a quick, “Thank you.” I looked at the man on the wheelchair and realized that he must have advanced dementia. He seemed completely clueless that he had almost lost his life. Which also meant that he was absolutely clueless that I had just saved it.
So here is what I’ve learned from that experience….
Doing the “right thing” doesn’t always feel great
If someone would have told me that saving someone’s life was going to feel slimy and make me want of puke, I would have thought they were nuts. However, that’s exactly the way that it rolled out.
Doing the right thing doesn’t guarantee a glorious feeling. It’s not to say that there are moments where doing the right thing will feel amazing. However, sometimes doing the right thing is messy. Sometimes it takes you away from doing things that you enjoy. Sometimes people aren’t appreciative. However, it’s important to do the right thing, simply because it’s right.
The apostle Paul reminds us of this when he says, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up*.”
Many times, people are simply clueless of what we do for them.
We’ve all been there. We invested time and energy. We hoped for the best and we did it with all our heart. Yet, the person that we invested in simply didn’t grasp how much it cost us…..
Just like this man was incapable of knowing what took place, there are many others who simply aren’t at a place where they can understand our investment in their lives.
That kind of reminds me of how we respond to God’s investment in our lives at times…… (Which leads me to the next thing I want to share with you.)
I’m guilty of not giving God the fanfare of gratitude and praise that He deserves for saving my life time-after-time.
I must confess that, at first, I would get angry when I thought about this occurrence. I was frustrated with the care-taker (at least that is what I thought she was). In my opinion, care-takers ought to know CPR and first-aid (and in my opinion I’m right. Ha! Ha!)…. But what really bothered me, is that she didn’t even bother to thank me for doing her job for her (For heavens sake, she just jumped back into grubbing her burger as if nothing had happened).
However, if I’m being completely honest, there are many times that I do the same thing to God. I have seen him time-after-time do the work that I was completely capable of doing and refused to do. I have seen him pull me through some less-than-glorious moments when I refused to act according to my highest potential. There have also been countless times where the miraculous has taken place, and I have known beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was His provision…. With a testimony like mine, I ought to be a walking billboard that declares the goodness and glory of Him who loves me. It is my hope and prayer that some day the praise I give will match the work that He has done and continues to do in my life.
John Eli Garay.
John Eli has spent over 15 years mentoring and coaching individuals in life skills, career transitions, and through organizational change. His resume includes pastoral care, behavioral health, and higher-education advising. From an early age, John recognized that God created him to bring hope, healing and encouragement to others. He is currently walking out his purpose by helping others confront, and work through, self-inflicted trauma of past choices. His ministry includes blogging, speaking, and personal development coaching. He currently lives in Chandler, Arizona with his wife, mini-schnauzer and an antique piano whom he calls, “Betty.”