I had an encounter with a fellow I hadn’t seen for several years. During my early days at Community Chaplaincy we used to serve a hot lunch 5 days a week. When I began there I instituted “A Word From Our Sponsor”, a short devotional before each meal. This was met with some vocal opposition but this fellow was someone who really valued those pithy devotions. He had been in the armed forces and had fallen on hard times. He valued a message of hope and he tried to encourage me. One day he gave me a “Camouflage Bible” which he had carried during his time in service. I remember joking with him that I would have to be careful where I set it down because I might never be able to find it. Ironically I did set it down and never find it again. I suspect though that someone else picked it up. I hope it blessed them!
Now, several years later I met this friend again. He remembered me and called me by name. This did not seem extraordinary until during our conversation I learned that he had suffered a catastrophic brain injury. He had lost most of his memories. He talked about getting lost blocks from his home and being driven home by the police. He joked about how he can now enjoy the same DVD over and over again and how he doesn’t tire of Kraft Dinner.
I asked him if he had a care giver or if he had tried to access any veterans’ benefits. He had not. He wanted to maintain his independence as long as possible. His daughter keeps in regular touch with him and they have an agreement about those things that will trigger an end to his independence.
We spoke for some time. I could only acknowledge how tough this was. We laughed and joked. I shared with him how important his encouragement was for me during those early difficult days. He seemed genuinely pleased to know that he had affected me positively. We prayed. I prayed for him and he prayed for me. It was a blessed encounter for me. I was encouraged by his courage and humbled that I enjoy such health.
Over the years I have come to know several people who have suffered brain injuries. Life can be very frustrating and our culture has little patience for these folks. I have one friend who really wants to be a part of our Street Hope fellowship but he cannot remember where or when we get together. If he gets into a rigid routine he will come really regularly but then he disappears and floats through life for a period until we find each other again. He beats himself up for his poor memory and people get frustrated with him, as well.
Patience is the key but human patience has its limits. We need a patience that comes from hope! We can patiently wait because God’s Kingdom is breaking through! Now the greatest minds know only part but we live in hope that one day we will know even as we are known.