My Grandpa was, among other things, a wonderful story teller. I think, if given the choice between going out on a Saturday night to have fun with our friends, or staying home, eating pizza buns, watching slides, and listening to my Grandpa tell stories, most of the time us kids would probably have picked the latter. Not only did Bapa have a knack for spinning a yarn, but in his 91 years he had some of the most interesting experiences one could imagine. Fortunately for our family, Bapa took the time to write down a good number of his stories, and so we’re still able to relive them to this day. While leafing through them a couple of nights ago, I ran into one in particular that made me stop to think. It more or less went like this:
It was a bitterly cold mid-winter night in northern Wisconsin. Dad and I had left home at 3:30 a.m. and were driving towards upper Michigan on a business trip. Since the winter days are short, it was still very dark out. My dad thought this trip was a particularly urgent one, or we never would have gone out in the -40 degree temperature.
Suddenly, in the beam of the headlights, we saw a person awkwardly staggering into the middle of the road. Our first thoughts were that he must be drunk, but our second thoughts made us realize that no matter what you were, -40 is just far too cold to be walking around in, so we stopped to see if he needed help.
It didn’t take us long to learn that he wasn’t drunk at all, but severely hypothermic. His first words to us, slurred, were, “You fellows are angels!” We helped him into our car and gave him the seat closest to the heater. After telling us again that we were angels, he was finally able to tell us who he was.
It turns out, the man was the most prominent and well-known architect in the central United States! He told us that his car engine had quit several hours before, and with no engine, he had no heat. Being the middle of the night, there was no traffic, and he began to believe that he was about to die.
We took him to a hotel in the next town, and though he offered dad a good amount of money, dad refused, saying that he could never accept money for helping someone in those circumstances. The man finally gave dad his card, and said that if he ever needed help of any kind, he should just get ahold of him.
A year or two later, our church caught fire and the steeple, along with the entire front of the church were destroyed. The congregation were not too keen on rebuilding it exactly as before, but they wanted it to look special somehow. They just were not sure how. Well, dad happened to remember that famous architect, and so he got in touch with him and asked if he remembered us. He said, “You fellows are angels - I will never forget you! You wouldn’t take any money, so how can I make it up to you?”
Dad explained the church situation, and the man said “Don’t do a thing before I see you. I’m coming through your town in three days, and I’ll get ahold of you.” Three days later, dad and I met with him. He looked at the church carefully and told dad to expect some drawings in about a week.
Now normally, this architect would never touch a project as small as our church. He only worked with very large and expensive buildings. But true to his word, about a week later, some incredibly detailed and high quality drawings came - at no cost to the church. The congregation was thrilled. Not only had he designed a wonderful new front, but he also suggested a few other key changes to really make the place stand out. We all loved his ideas, and the church followed them to the smallest detail. Being that it was right on the highway between upper Michigan and New Orleans, hundreds of thousands of travelers saw it each year as they passed by.
God occasionally uses men, women, and even children as His instruments. “Men are instruments in the hand of God, employed by Him to accomplish His purposes of grace and mercy.” GC 343. “We should be grateful that God condescends to use any of us as HIs instruments.” 3T 209.
Dad and I were very grateful to be God’s instruments that very bitterly cold night.
You know, we often hear of the cycle of poverty, or the cycles of addiction, but just as real are the cycles of love and kindness. Maybe tonight when you’re driving, you won’t save the life of a famous architect, but by starting circles of kindness, like a kid throwing rocks into a pond, you never know where your ripples will reach. But God does know, and it just might be that in order to change a life over here, He’s counting on you to toss a rock of kindness out into the water.