Receiving the sad news of the death of our friend Willie, and thinking about the times we were able to help this dear man who’d had a tough lot in life, I was reminded about the importance of lending a helping hand when the opportunity arises.  Since none of us can be certain about the length of time we have here on earth, I find it essential to fine-tune or readjust life’s focus every so often. In other words, to determine what has lasting value, what holds a worthy purpose, and what brings fulfilment and happiness.

A quote from Marla Gibbs that I recently read brings out a good point along this line. She wrote: “In my life I’ve learned that true happiness comes from giving. Helping others along the way makes you evaluate who you are. I think that love is what we’re all searching for. I haven’t come across anyone who didn’t become a better person through love.” 

Like so many poor folks in Kenya where I live, Willie’s story was one of hardship and suffering. It began one morning as he walked to his work as a golf caddy when a speeding car hit him. The driver fled, leaving Willie severely injured by the side of the road. A stranger, a “Good Samaritan,” rushed him to the hospital, where his leg was amputated above the knee.

Because of the accident and the long painful recovery, he lost his job and received no remuneration, so Willie had no choice but to move into a small hut in a local slum. His living conditions in the slums made it impossible to maneuver a wheelchair, and even the use of crutches proved difficult on the narrow, bumpy slum lane. Willie’s poor, aged sister was the only person in his life who could help care for him, but she had little to give.

During one of our food delivery programs for poor families, we heard about Willie’s need for help. With an already long list of recipients for this weekly aid and our limited resources, it would have been understandable to turn away, but we decided otherwise.

After entering his small dark hut and listening to his story, we realized that it must have been God’s leading that brought us to the doorstep of this desperate soul. The tragedy of Willie’s accident had sent him into deep despair and depression. Our visit and promise of regular care packages cheered him up and a broad smile rushed over his pain-stricken face. Teary eyed, he said that he felt God answered his prayers by sending us to bring light and hope into his darkness.

We were glad that we had heeded the nudge to go the extra mile, which ended up making a profound difference in one person’s life. Now that Willie has passed on, I am happy that we could ease his load a little bit through the years. It pays to listen to the still small voice, our God-given conscience, that often speaks to our hearts, pointing us in the right direction.

Though as believers we intend to love one another (Matthew 22:39), we often miss opportunities to relieve others’ pain. That could be because we are unaware of others’ needs; or perhaps we are not practicing empathy. Empathy is the key that can unlock the door to our kindness and compassion.

We all need a nudge from time to time to continue using our gifts of compassion and doing our part to encourage and help others.