Your Presence is a Present
By Ed Delph
December 5, 2022
The San Francisco Chronicle reported a story about a humpback whale on December 14, 2005. On December 11, 2005, a female humpback whale entangled herself in a spider web of crab traps and lines. She had hundreds of pounds of crab traps and yards of lines wrapped around her body, her tail, her torso, and even a line tugging in her mouth.
A fisherman spotted her east of the Farallon Islands, just outside the Golden Gate Bridge. He radioed for help. Within a few hours, the rescue team arrived and determined that she was so bad off that the only way to save her was to dive in and untangle her. Talk about danger. One slap of a whale's tail could kill a rescuer. They worked for hours with curved knives and eventually freed her.
When she was free, the divers said she swam in what seemed like joyous circles. She then returned to each diver and nudged them as if to thank them. The divers were stunned. The guy who cut the rope out of her mouth said her eye followed him the whole time and said he would never be the same.
I'm glad someone got involved and took the time, effort, and courage to save the whale. You might say the group of divers was like Jesus. They set the ensnared whale free from certain death. But, wouldn't it be just as good, if not better, if someone was Jesus to those people caught in heavy traps and long lines of calamity, even if by their own doing? Wouldn't it be fantastic if someone were Jesus to the lonely person in the nursing home who needs a visit from someone? Wouldn't finding a need and meeting it be better than complaining about long store lines or judging others for their political correctness or the lack thereof?
Wouldn't it be better to go outside your comfort zone and volunteer for a worthy cause in your community? You don't get to experience what those whale-freeing divers experienced by just sending a check. When you give a check, something is withdrawn from your bank account. When you get involved, something is deposited in you. You give a Christmas present to yourself when you give your presence as a present to another who needs it.
It's interesting how everybody these days wants somebody or anybody to do something about the problems in the world or their community. This story illustrates my point.
A mother was preparing breakfast for her sons, Kevin, age five, and Ryan, age three. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw an opportunity for a moral lesson. "If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, 'Let my brother have the first pancake. I can wait.' Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, "Ryan, you be Jesus!" That was our home about thirty years ago.
Have you heard the illustration about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody? There was an important job to do, and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. So, then, Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it. So, it ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.
We live in a world of specialists. In some respects, this is great. We all appreciate someone who specializes in a specific area, especially if we need the specialist's specialty. But saying or thinking, "That's not my department," regarding a simple job that anyone could do, is something else. That sounds like, “Ryan, you be Jesus.”
Almost anybody could bless others by serving meals to the poor. But Nobody did it. Why? "That’s not my department." "That’s not my job." A servant-leader will go where many specialists, professionals, politicians, academics, philanthropists, and theologians won’t. Too many people look for a way out of serving others in real and tangible ways. Might I suggest that instead, we look for a 'way in' to help others in real and tangible ways?
Look at Jesus in the Bible. Jesus valued people. Jesus took time out for people in need that others could have done. He made time for the children. Jesus talked to the loose woman at the well when most men didn't speak to “that kind” of woman. He stopped his journey, healing a Roman Centurion's servant on the way to a family funeral. Unheard of, yet He did it. In doing this, Jesus reveals to us God's nature. Jesus both presented God and represented God. God loves everyone. Everybody is Somebody to God. The first Christmas, God gave us the present of his presence, “now in flesh appearing.”
Here are some final thoughts about stopping the “Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done” cycle. Be a ‘Solutionary.’ You might be one person to the world, but to one person, you might be the world. The more I look at things, the more I believe the willingness to start is the littlest thing in life that makes the biggest difference.
Take a risk, get started, and contribute more than a protest. If you are going to point out a problem, be prepared to fix it. Don't say, "Ryan, you be Jesus!" Who knows, you might untangle some person or family from the traps and lines that entangle them.
Maybe I could say it this way. Giving is living, so why not live this Christmas by giving Christmas? After all, your presence is a present.
Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com