Every morning Mark Donohue woke up to the sound of the radio; and, like most mornings, the first thing he heard was the overnight news stories.
“This morning, there was a fire on Guthrie street,” said the woman on the radio. “A single mother, with her two small children, just barely made it out alive; but, now, they have no where to live.”
“Boy that’s just awful,” Mark said to the empty room as he sat up in bed and started to stretch.
“In other overnight news,” the reporter continued, “the police were called out to a double homicide on Harrison street. Apparently the two men involved were victims of...”
Mark reached over and turned off the radio, any more bad news and it would absolutely sour his day. So, he got up, took his shower and got dressed. Then he walked out to the front porch to get his newspaper. He opened it up to the front page and there in big letters was the cover story: The Ax Swings Again: Five Hundred More to be Laid Off. Quickly he closed the paper back up. “Good grief,” he said, “is there no end to the misery.”
Mark went back inside and ate his breakfast. Then he drove over to the park n ride to catch the bus that would take him to work. As he sat on the bus, Mark looked around at the other passengers. He knew it wasn’t right to judge a book by it’s cover; but, as he looked at the faces of the other passengers, all Mark could think was that there were a bunch of sad stories on this bus. It was just too much for him, so Mark took out his ipod, plugged in his earphones and just closed his eyes. As the music washed over him, he tried to let go of the tension that was already starting to build up in his shoulders; but, he was finding it difficult to let go. One thought kept going through his mind, so much hurt, so much pain in the world.
Finally, much to his relief, Mark arrived at his office. Now he could focus on the work that he had to do, and wouldn’t have to think about anything else. But, about a half an hour later, one of his coworkers came over to talk.
“Hey, did you hear about Kevin and Joanie?”
“No, what about them,” Mark said.
“Apparently they are getting a divorce.”
“A divorce? Six months ago they celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary.”
“Yeah, well, last month, their youngest graduated from college. I guess they were waiting until the kids were out of the house. Anyway, we were wondering if maybe you would talk to him.”
“To Kevin? Why Me? I don’t know what to say to him.”
“Well, none of us do; but, come on Mark, let’s face it, you know you’re the one everyone comes to for advice. You just have a way of helping people. So, we thought maybe you could help Kevin.”
“Fine, I don’t know how I’ll be able to help him; but, I’ll talk to him at lunch.”
“Great, thanks Mark, we knew you could do it.”
“Yeah, well, don’t thank me yet. I haven’t done anything.”
Mark just shook his head in disbelief as his co-worker walked away. Great, one more hurting person. Lord I don’t know what to say to him.
For the rest of the morning, all Mark could think about was what he should say to Kevin. By the time lunch came around, he didn’t have much to go on. Nevertheless, he went and got his lunch and then walked over to Kevin’s office. “Hey Kevin,” Mark said as he walked in, “I heard the news. I’m really sorry.”
During lunch, the two of them talked and when lunch was over, Mark wasn’t sure he had done much good. But, Kevin thanked him anyway as Mark walked out of the office. He returned to his desk and tried to concentrate on his work. He wasn’t convinced that he was doing a very good job of it; but, still he trudged through the rest of the day.
When he got home that evening, Mark was tired, at least it was Friday. All he wanted to do was eat his dinner and watch some tv. While he was cooking the phone rang. Mark hesitated, thought about letting the answering machine get it; but, at the last moment he reached over and picked it up.
“Good evening sir, I am calling from the Central Blood bank, and I wanted to let you know that we need your help, actually, your community needs your help. Our available supply of blood is at an all time low. So, can we schedule you to come in and help us out.”
“I’ll have to look at my calendar and find a time to come in.”
“Thank you sir, very much.”
Mark finished fixing his dinner and he took it into the family room, where he sat down and turned on the television. He was just taking his first bite of food when he looked at the screen and saw the image of a little girl, holding an empty bowl. “This little girl is going to go to bed hungry tonight,” came the voice from the screen, “unless you help. Just five dollars will be buy enough grain for her and her mother to eat for a week.”
With a heavy sigh, Mark reached over and picked up the remote. He quickly turned the channel. It’s not that he couldn’t help. He could. It’s not that he didn’t want to help. He did. But, when was it going to end. Standing behind every person he helped was ten more people who needed help. It was nonstop; and, sometimes it was overwhelming. Just once, Mark thought to himself, I would like to not be needed.
It was right about that time that the doorbell rang. Mark put his plate of food down and went to answer it. When he opened the door, he saw two young boys standing on his front porch.
“Good evening sir, my name is Joshua Clark, and I am with Boy Scout Troop 221, and we are out tonight, scouting for food, to help the hungry in our community. Sir, we were wondering if you could help us by donating some food.”
“Just a minute.” Mark turned and walked back into the kitchen. He opened up the pantry and pulled a couple of cans of food off of the shelf. Then he carried them back and gave them to the boys.”
“Thank you sir for you help.”
“Your welcome,” Mark said as he closed the door. Then he looked up and said, “Jesus, I don’t know how you did it. All those people needing and wanting your help. No wonder you went off by yourself every once in a while.”
Suddenly Mark had an idea. “I know where I can go and not be needed. I’ll just go to the cabin.” His family had a cabin on a lake not too far outside of town. So, Mark quickly finished his dinner, gathered together some clothing, food and other supplies. He loaded them in the car and drove off. He didn’t call and tell anyone where he was going. He just drove.
When he arrived at the cabin, Mark unloaded his supplies and after a half an hour he was able to sit down in the peace and quiet. There was no television, no radio, no one to tell him that there were needy and hurting people out there in the world. There was no phone and no one knew he was there, so there was no one to interrupt his time with a request for help. Finally, he could relax and let go of the tension that he carried with him for so much of his day. Mark closed his eyes. A moment later, he opened his eyes when he realized that the vibrations coming from his shirt pocket wasn’t his imagination. He pulled his cell phone out of his shirt pocket, cursing himself for not leaving it in the car. He looked at the caller id. It was his mother.
He put the phone back into his pocket. She’ll just think I’m busy, he thought to himself. She won’t know I’m ignoring her call. But, two minutes later, the phone rang again, and two minutes after that, and two minutes after that. Finally Mark couldn’t stand it anymore.
“Hi mom. What? Slow down Mom, I can hardly understanding...what about Jake...no I hadn’t heard...arrested...help him, what am I supposed...I know he’s my brother...Mom! Mom, I am going to have to call you back. Mother please forgive me for what I am about to do. With that, Mark hung up the phone, walked out to the car, put the phone on the passenger seat, closed the door and walked back into the cabin.
“Lord, it’s just too much. Everywhere I turn there are people hurting. There is so much need in this world. Everybody wants help. I’m just one person. Lord, we have to talk about this.” And so they did. For the rest of the night they talked, just Mark and the Lord. Hour after hour, Mark paced around the cabin, talking, listening, arguing, listening, pleading, listening, unloading every thought and burden that was on his mind, and listening.
The sun was just coming up over the lake when Mark fixed himself a cup of coffee and walked out onto the front porch of the cabin. Even though he had not slept a wink, Mark didn’t feel tired like he thought he would. Instead he felt refreshed and he felt ready. So, he walked over to the car and got his cell phone out. He looked at the number of times his mother had called him during the night and knew that this was not going to be a pleasant call. Nevertheless, he dialed the number.
“Good morning mom...yes, I know...your right it was wrong for me to hang up and I am sorry...I know he is my brother...yes, I know you are just one person, you can’t do it all...actually I figured out last night, that none of us can do it all by ourselves...don’t worry mom, I will help Jake...yes, I know what I am going to do...I am simply going to do what I can. What’s that...what was I doing last night?...I was learning last night that no matter how much I want to, I simply can’t save the world...that’s right mom, Jesus has already done that. I understand now that, saving the world is just not my job. What’s that? Oh, what’s my Job? My job is just to do what I can with the gifts I’ve been given. That’s right, I’ll leave the rest up to Jesus. Your right mom, he’s in charge, not me. I remember what you used to tell me, faithfulness is all he expects...alright, I will be home in about an hour...I love you too, mom.”
“Alright Jesus, we’ve got a deal. You lead, I’ll follow.”