Gordon MacDonald shares the following story about visiting a small group of men and women affiliated with Alcoholics Anonymous. MacDonald said that he visited the group because he has friends who are recovering alcoholics and he wanted to see for himself what they were talking about. Here’s what he found:
One morning Kathy—I guessed her age at 35—joined us for the first time. One look at her face caused me to conclude that she must have been Hollywood-beautiful at 21. Now her face was swollen, her eyes red, her teeth rotting. Her hair looked unwashed, uncombed for who knows how long.
“I’ve been in five states in the past month,” she said. “I’ve slept under bridges on several nights. Been arrested. Raped. Robbed (now weeping). I don’t know what to do. I … don’t … want … to … be … homeless … any more. But (sob) I can’t stop drinking (sob). I can’t stop (sob). I can’t … “
Next to Kathy was a rather large woman, Marilyn, sober for more than a dozen years. She reached with both arms toward Kathy and pulled her close, so close that Kathy’s face was pressed to Marilyn’s ample breast. I was close enough to hear Marilyn speak quietly into Kathy’s ear, “Honey, you’re going to be OK. You’re with us now. We can deal with this together. All you have to do is keep coming. Hear me? Keep on coming.” And then Marilyn kissed the top of Kathy’s head.
I was awestruck. The simple words, the affection, the tenderness. How Jesus-like. I couldn’t avoid a troubling question that morning. Could this have happened in the places where I have worshiped? Would there have been a space in the program for Kathy to tell her story? Would there have been a Marilyn to respond in this way?
Questions for reflection:
- Why could Marilyn show such compassion?
- Why am I so quick to condemn the brokenness of others rather than show empathy and compassion?
- What if I (we) were more like Marilyn?
Source: Gordon MacDonald, “My Small Group, Anonymous,” Leadership Journal (Winter 2014)