Carlos was a devoted Kiwanis Club member and a retired supervisor from the New Boston steel mill. He was admitted to hospice for lung cancer at the age of 82. Four years earlier, before Carlos could have ever imagined needing hospice for himself, he roped me into speaking about hospice at his New Boston Kiwanis club luncheon. He didn’t have to tug very hard because I’ve always been thankful for the New Boston Kiwanis Club. You see, they sponsored our high school National Honor Society and managed the low-income apartments where I lived for about a year while attending Ohio University – Portsmouth Branch.
I was 19 years old when Harold, the Kiwanis Apartments manager, taught me some painfully valuable lessons about “choices and consequences.” It was around dusk when I heard a hard, sharp repetitive knock on my apartment door, apartment L-2. I opened the door and there stood Harold, a large rough-hewned middle-aged man who informed me, “You’re evicted. And I want you out of here right now!” I defiantly, and overly confidently, responded, “I’m not leaving. You can’t make me. I know my rights.” Well, later that evening Harold was back at my door, but this time accompanied by a New Boston police officer. They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, so I moved out the next day. And in the words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I’ve got to say about that.”
Over 30 years later, when Carlos enrolled in hospice, I was privileged to meet his daughters. When his daughter, Vicki, shared the following story with me, I knew I had to pass it on. Vicki recounted, “It was about 14 years ago, back when mom just got saved and was studying the Bible a lot. Mom had only been a Christian for about a year. She and Dad got saved at the same time. When my granddaughter, Kelsey, was about a year old Mom and I were in the back yard watching the kids play. We were standing by the back porch.” Carlos interjected, “I built that porch for Pearl.” Vicki continued, “Mom and I were talking and all at once Kelsey jumped off the porch towards me. I turned around real fast just in time to catch her. Mom said, ‘That’s the kind of faith that God wants us to have in Him, to trust Him to catch us.’”
Pearl’s insight reminds me of a song by Nichole Nordeman titled, “What If.” “What if you’re right and He’s just another nice guy? What if it’s tru,; they say the cross will only make a fool out of you. What if the crown of thorns is no more than a folklore that must be told and retold? But what if you’re wrong,what if there’s more? What if there’s hope that you’ve never dreamed of hoping for? What if you jump, just close your eyes? What if the arms that catch you, catch you by surprise?’”
My eviction from the Kiwanis apartments was one in a series of events that led me to the edge of a cliff. I vividly remember saying to myself at age 16, “I’ll never trust or need anyone ever again. I’ll show them what I can do on my own.” From that point on I lived with a vengeance. I was defiantly independent but desperately lonely. It was at that critical pivotal point in my life that a compassionate friend simply told me, “Loren, Jesus loves you and has a plan for your life. I wish you had what I have.” And so did I. I didn’t know how or where to get it, but I was determined to find it. So I started searching.
I bought a paperback “Parallel New Testament” at Glad Tidings Book Store and started reading. I read from midnight to five o’clock in the morning, but nothing. I prayed, “God what do you expect from me? What do you want me to do?” I continued reading, but still nothing. I cried out in desperation, “God I can’t do it. If I’m gonna be saved, you’re gonna have to do it for me. But still nothing.
I decided to give God one more chance and I opened the Bible and read, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened to you.”(Matthew 7:7-9). I thought, “Surely it can’t be that easy. Surely I have to do more than just ask?” Then I prayed, “God, either this is true or you are a liar. And if it’s true, then it’s true for me. So I’m taking you at your word. I’m asking.” That night I “jumped” and the arms that caught me, caught me by surprise.
What about you? Are you on the edge? Are you tired of living with a vengeance? What if you decide to jump?
Loren Hardin is a social worker with Southern Ohio Medical Center – Hospice and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 740-356-2525.