This is how we know what real love is: Jesus gave his life for us. So we should give our lives for our brothers and sisters. Suppose someone has enough to live and sees a brother or sister in need, but does not help. Then God’s love is not living in that person. My children, we should love people not only with words and talk, but by our actions and true caring. [1 John 3:16-18 (NCV)]

starfish - CP426-cropwebAs I picked up another starfish and tossed it back into the water, I thought of Loren Eiseley’s essay about saving starfish and making a difference in people’s lives, one life at a time. Remembering Eiseley’s essay got me thinking about an announcement made last week at Bible study. While a local family was driving home from church last Easter, a driver sped through a red light, t-boned their car, and changed their lives forever. Their two small children were seriously injured and one, a three-year old girl, was airlifted to another town. On life support for about a month, her injuries left her a quadriplegic. Now four, this sweet little girl has more surgeries and months (if not years), of medical, physical and occupational therapies ahead of her. Meanwhile, her family struggles with mounting medical expenses. Although the family does not attend our church, their need came to the attention of our pastor. Being restricted to a wheelchair has kept this little girl and her family from their favorite Florida activity—going to the beach. Since the wheels of a normal wheelchair would sink in the sand, family beach time has been just a memory until now. Yesterday, along with a sizeable check to help with their expenses, our church presented them with a sturdy all-terrain beach wheelchair. This vehicle enables her not just to go to the beach but also to go into the ocean and play in the water once again.

all terrain wheelchairWith their huge medical bills and needs, the $2,200 spent on a wheelchair may seem a little frivolous—but not to a four-year-old girl who had given up all hope of ever going to the beach or feeling the waves again! There are some people who will analyze how many mission trips, meals, blankets, immunizations, medicines, bricks, or Bibles could have been purchased with that same amount of money. They may disagree with how the church spent our tithes and offerings. Without a doubt, there is a tremendous need in our world for just the bare necessities of clean water, food, shelter, and health care. Sometimes, however, a need is right in front of us—a need to make life a little easier for a neighbor, a need to bring some joy back to a family or to put a smile back on a child’s face. Sometimes what seems extravagant to someone is a necessity to another—a great wig or a day at the spa for a woman with breast cancer, a davit that allows a paraplegic man to get into his boat again, skiing on a sit-ski for a wounded warrior who’s lost his legs, a week of summer camp for a teen with diabetes, a weekend at Disney for a child with leukemia, a trip to the Super Bowl for a boy with cystic fibrosis, or even a teddy bear for a tot recovering from heart surgery.

Healing was an essential part of Jesus’ ministry and it needs to be part of ours as well. While few of us have a healing touch, we all can offer something that can’t be found in medical equipment or a pharmacy: compassion, encouragement, hope, and even a little fun. That wheelchair may do more to heal this little girl than years of therapy could ever accomplish. While we can’t help everyone, we can each help someone, one person at a time, and make a big difference in that one person’s life. Last week, I helped a few starfish off the beach; this week a little girl will be helped back onto the beach.

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. [John Muir]

He sent the apostles out to tell about God’s kingdom and to heal the sick. … So the apostles went out and traveled through all the towns, preaching the Good News and healing people everywhere. [Luke 9:2,6 (NCV)]

(Loren Eiseley’s essay was previously mentioned in “We Can Make a Difference,” June 2013)