Over the past couple weeks, I have been telling the stories of a “memorable” vacation that I went on with my parents when I was about 17 years-old. Ever in love with anything American, my father took us across the Atlantic to visit the Big Apple: New York City!
I truly wanted to enjoy this trip. I knew it was a fulfilment of my dad’s dream, and I knew he wanted my mom and I to be happy there as well. But being from a small town in Belgium, we just couldn’t feel comfortable in the noise and busyness of the city; and the fact that there were four locks on our hotel door only heightened our anxiety.
There was a definite aire of excitement emanating from my dad that first morning that he awoke in New York. We knew he had an agenda when he couldn’t wait to finish his breakfast, and it didn’t take long for him to share his plans with us: “Today we will go up the Empire State Building!”
That actually sounded like a good plan to me. In fact, anything that would take me up and out of the noise and congestion on the streets sounded like a good plan! Besides, there might be a good opportunity for pictures from the top of what was once the tallest building in New York; and it was with a little added enthusiasm that I set out.
It soon became obvious that my mom did not share any element of enthusiasm about the day’s plans. You see, when she was a child, she fell on the stairs, and ever since then she suffered from vertigo and a significant fear of heights. I knew this, and I think my dad probably did, too; but in his excitement, he didn’t remember that anything above ground level would definitely not put my mom in her comfort zone. And so it was that we proceeded to the base of the building.
I have to admit that just staring up those tall buildings was a bit intimidating. I had never in my life seen such a high structure, and I certainly hadn’t ever been this close to one. I remember thinking that it might make for a nice picture, and I proceeded to snap a couple.
My dad was already entering the building when I finished, and I was finally beginning to absorb some of his excitement. Neither of us seemed to notice that my reluctant mother was dragging behind. In fact, it wasn’t until we were finally stepping out of the elevator at the top that I noticed her face had grown green under her make-up. There were beads of sweat on her forehead and her breath had begun to come out in short gasps. That is when I remember her fear of heights, and suddenly the anticipation of the pictures I might take from the top faded. How could I enjoy myself up there when my mom was so afraid? Taking her by the arm, I said to my dad, “You go on. We’ll wait for you here by the elevator!”
My dad agreed, and my mom and I stood together, as close to the elevator as we could get. Even though we were still at the top of the building, I could see that her colour and breathing were returning to normal, and the sweat was disappearing from her brow; and what was especially rewarding was when she smiled at me: “Thank you! Just having you here with me away from the edge makes me feel so much better!” No, I didn’t get any pictures from the top that day, but seeing the pure relief on my mom’s face was enough. I felt good knowing that I had saved her from what would have been a horrific experience for her.
Helping others is truly what brings the most joy. Any happiness gained from selfish ambitions is fleeting; but the joy we get from self-sacrifice for the sake of someone else’s well-being is the kind that remains for a lifetime.
Not only does helping others bring joy, but it is also a Biblical mandate: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12 NIV). We are also told to, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2 NIV)!
The reason helping others is a command is because it pleases God: “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Hebrews 13:16 NIV). And God rewards things that please Him: “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.” (Proverbs 19:17 NIV); “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (Hebrews 6:10 NIV).
There’s more. When we are kind to others, we show them a picture of God’s love, and potentially, we can be helping them find God as well: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16 NIV). And, we see in Matthew 25 that helping others comes naturally for those who belong to the Lord: “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'” (Vs. 44-45 NIV)! Thus, when we reach out to help others, what we are truly doing is showing by our actions that our hearts belong to the Lord!
I could go on, but you get the picture. If being kind and helping others doesn’t come naturally to us, then perhaps we need to spend more time with God, working on our relationship with Him. As we do, His love for others will pour forth in our hearts, and the kind attitude and helping hand will begin to come naturally.
God bless you all as you look for ways to help other!
There was one more lesson to be learned from this “memorable” trip to the Big Apple. Join us on Friday!
In His love,
(To access the entire “New York, New York!” devotional series, please click here!)