Three years ago, I found myself bruised and battered and lying handcuffed to a hospital bed.
I still wasn’t quite sure how I had ended up there. I remembered that my roommate had attacked me, and that I had called 911 asking for help…but my brain still wasn’t quite able to process the connection between that awful interaction and how I had ended up behind bars instead of her.
Apparently cops are much more suspicious of all parties involved in domestic disputes than I had anticipated. If I had known that I never would have called them in the first place.
And yet, here I was, whether I was willing to accept it or not.
That was a terrible evening. I kept going over the events in my head, trying to make sense of them. I knew I had been assaulted, I knew I was in the hospital, and I knew I was on my way to jail.
But I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t let me go, why they couldn’t see that I was the victim, not the perpetrator. I felt like my whole world was falling apart and there was nothing I could do about it.
Then a voice spoke up from the bed next to me.
A man who could sympathize with my distaste of being handcuffed to the bed but little more than that. We were so different. This man had suffered a far greater injustice than I had, and he was now facing a decade or more of imprisonment because he had been framed for his brother’s murder.
But this man was trying to encourage me. He had heard my distress and chose to reach over the curtain and across the chasm that separated us to comfort me. He chose to see me as a real person, even if we could barely relate to each other.
I learned an important lesson that day, one that I will never forget. People are the most important things in life. Not your job, not your big house or fancy car, not your next vacation or paying off student loans or losing all of that weight. People.
This is true regardless of who the person is, regardless of how similar or different they are from you.
Before that night, I had had an subconscious aversion to anyone who had ever been imprisoned. Some part of me assumed that if they were in jail, they must have gotten what was coming to them; they must be people I wouldn’t want to associate with.
But my night in jail made me realize that it is the people most unlike ourselves who can teach us the most, help us grow the most rapidly.
Just ask the kind soul who helps the homeless people in her neighborhood, the mother who adopts a child from another country, the educator who goes abroad to teach, the church-goer who helps rescue women caught in prostitution.
The Bible is full of verses exhorting us to help the poor, the needy, the destitute, the widows and the orphans. But those commandments are just as much for the giver as they are for the receiver.
Acts 20:35 says that it is more blessed to give than to receive. I couldn’t agree more.
Today I can truly say that I am grateful for that fateful night. It reminded me, and continues to remind me, that life is best lived with eyes wide-open, looking for chances to invest in people who are different from yourself. It may not earn you millions of dollars…but it is the best path to true success.
Who can you help today that you might normally overlook?