December 9, 2016
I’m getting ready to talk about one of my most memorable Christmas stories in front of a couple of hundred people at my church. Forgive me if I’ve told this story before. His name was Frank, and he was at the bottom of his emotional tank – filled with despair over having had to take another person’s life in the line of duty as a New York City policeman. It was obvious to me that Frank may never fully recover from this traumatic event. In fact, one of the reasons I was working with him was due to the fact that he had turned to alcohol to help him get through the pain of having to live with the consequences of doing his job. Even though he had saved the life of his partner by taking out the assailant, he still couldn’t adjust to his life after this event. After visiting with Frank several times, I almost preferred the times after he had had a little bit to drink when he wasn’t so awful to me and others – always lashing out in some sort of rant when he was completely sober. When he told me that he lost his wife and kids because of his current condition, my heart really went out to him.
For some reason that year, this college kid was alone at Christmas, and I started to feel sorry for myself. I remember even tearing up during a particularly heartfelt movie – basically wishing I were somewhere else with family and friends around to help celebrate the occasion. On Christmas morning, my thoughts turned to Frank. I could wallow in my pity or go help him share his. I found out that Denny’s puts out a pretty good Christmas meal, and sharing it with Frank made it all the better. Perhaps for the first time in my life I was celebrating Christmas in a way that put me in touch with the heartbreak of a hurting world. Would I do it again? I hope I would have the courage to do so. I’ve lost track of Frank over the years. Just maybe that was a starting point for him to accept who he was, get professional help and get on with his life – maybe even reunite with his family.
Why did I share this very personal story? Perhaps it will help us all be just a little more thankful for all we have this year. You may never fully know the degree of positive impact and influence you have on a kid or a co-worker who is hurting. I know I’m thankful for all of you, and I appreciate all you do for students and colleagues. Have a wonderful weekend.