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He was 9—in a Sunday school class of 8-year-olds.
Eight-year-olds can be cruel.
The third-graders did not welcome Philip to their group. Not just because he was older. He was “different.”
He suffered from Down’s syndrome and its obvious manifestations:
facial characteristics, slow responses, symptoms of retardation.
One Sunday after Easter the Sunday school teacher gathered some of those plastic eggs that pull apart in the middle—the kind in which some ladies’ pantyhose are packaged.
The Sunday school teacher gave one of these plastic eggs to each child.
On that beautiful spring day each child was to go outdoors and discover for himself some symbol of “new life” and place that symbolic seed or leaf or whatever inside his egg.
They would then open their eggs one by one, and each youngster would explain how his find was a symbol of “new life.”
The youngsters gathered ’round on the appointed day and put their eggs on a table, and the teacher began to open them.
One child had found a flower.
All the children “oohed” and “aahed” at the lovely symbol of new life.
In another was a butterfly. “Beautiful,” the girls said. And it’s not easy for an 8-year-old to say “beautiful.”
Another egg was opened to reveal a rock. Some of the children laughed.
“That’s crazy!” one said. “How’s a rock supposed to be like a ‘new life’?”
Immediately a little boy spoke up and said, “That’s mine. I knew everybody would get flowers and leaves and butterflies and all that stuff,
so I got a rock to be different.”
The teacher opened the last one, and there was nothing inside.
“That’s not fair,” someone said. “That’s stupid,” said another.
Teacher felt a tug on his shirt. It was Philip. Looking up he said, “It’s mine. I did do it. It’s empty. I have new life because the tomb is empty.”
The class fell silent.
From that day on Philip became part of the group. They welcomed him. Whatever had made him different was never mentioned again.
Philip’s family had known he would not live a long life; just too many things wrong with the tiny body. That summer, overcome with infection,
On the day of his funeral nine 8-year-old boys and girls confronted the reality of death and marched up to the altar—not with flowers.
Nine children with their Sunday school teacher placed on the casket of their friend their gift of love—an empty egg.
A Song in the Dark
MAX LUCADO, from God Came Near
On any other day, I probably wouldn’t have stopped. Like the majority of people on the busy avenue, I would hardly have noticed him standing there. But the very thing on my mind was the very reason he was there, so I stopped.
I’d just spent a portion of the morning preparing a lesson out of the ninth chapter of John, the chapter that contains the story about the man blind from birth. I’d finished lunch and was returning to my office when
I saw him. He was singing. An aluminum cane was in his left hand; his right hand was extended and open, awaiting donations. He was blind.
After walking past him about five steps, I stopped and mumbled something to myself about the epitome of hypocrisy and went back in his direction. I put some change in his hand. “Thank you,” he said and then offered me a common Brazilian translation, “and may you have health.”
Once again I started on my way. Once again the morning’s study of
John 9 stopped me. “Jesus saw a man, blind from birth.” I paused and pondered. If Jesus were here he would see this man. I wasn’t sure what that meant. But I was sure I hadn’t done it. So I turned around again.
As if the giving of a donation entitled me to do so, I stopped beside a nearby car and observed. I challenged myself to see him. I would stay here until I saw more than a sightless indigent on a busy thoroughfare in downtown Rio de Janeiro.
I watched him sing. Some beggars grovel in a corner cultivating pity.
Others unashamedly lay their children on blankets in the middle of the sidewalk thinking that only the hardest of hearts would ignore a dirty,
naked infant asking for bread.
But this man did none of that. He stood. He stood tall. And he sang.
Loudly. Even proudly. All of us had more reason to sing than he, but he was the one singing. Mainly, he sang folk songs. Once I thought he was singing a hymn, though I wasn’t sure.
His husky voice was out of place amid the buzz of commerce. Like a sparrow who found his way into a noisy factory, or a lost fawn on an interstate,
his singing conjured up an awkward marriage between progress and simplicity.
The passersby had various reactions. Some were curious and gazed unabashedly. Others were uncomfortable. They were quick to duck their heads or walk in a wider circle. “No reminders of harshness today, please.”
Most, however, hardly noticed him. Their thoughts were occupied, their agendas were full and he was…well, he was a blind beggar.
I was thankful he couldn’t see the way they looked at him.
After a few minutes, I went up to him again. “Have you had any lunch?” I asked. He stopped singing. He turned his head toward the sound of my voice and directed his face somewhere past my ear. His eye sockets were empty. He said he was hungry. I went to a nearby restaurant and bought him a sandwich and something cold to drink.
When I came back he was still singing and his hands were still empty.
He was grateful for the food. We sat down on a nearby bench. Between bites he told me about himself. Twenty-eight years old. Single. Living with his parents and seven brothers. “Were you born blind?”
“No, when I was young I had an accident.” He didn’t volunteer any details and I didn’t have the gall to request them.
Though we were almost the same age, we were light-years apart. My three decades had been a summer vacation of family excursions, Sunday school, debate teams, football, and a search for the Mighty One. Growing up blind in the Third World surely offered none of these. My daily concern now involved people, thoughts, concepts, and communication. His day was stitched with concerns of survival: coins, handouts, and food. I’d go home to a nice apartment, a hot meal, and a good wife. I hated to think of the home he would encounter. I’d seen enough overcrowded huts on the hills of Rio to make a reasonable guess. And his reception…would there be anyone there to make him feel special when he got home?
I came whisker-close to asking him, “Does it make you mad that I’m not you?” “Do you ever lie awake at night wondering why the hand you were dealt was so different from the one given a million or so others born thirty years ago?”
I wore a shirt and tie and some new shoes. His shoes had holes and his coat was oversized and bulky. His pants gaped open from a rip in the knee.
And still he sang. Though a sightless, penniless hobo, he still found a song and sang it courageously. I wondered which room in his heart that song came from.
At worst, I figured, he sang from desperation. His song was all he had.
Even when no one gave any coins, he still had his song. Yet he seemed too peaceful to be singing out of self-preservation.
Or perhaps he sang from ignorance. Maybe he didn’t know what he had never had.
No, I decided the motivation that fit his demeanor was the one you’d least expect. He was singing from contentment. Somehow this eyeless pauper had discovered a candle called satisfaction and it glowed in his dark world. Someone had told him, or maybe he’d told himself, that tomorrow’s joy is fathered by today’s acceptance. Acceptance of what, at least for the moment, you cannot alter.
I looked up at the Niagara of faces that flowed past us. Grim.
Professional. Some determined. Some disguised. But none were singing,
not even silently. What if each face were a billboard that announced the true state of the owner’s heart? How many would say “Desperate! Business on the rocks!” or “Broken: In Need of Repair,” or “Faithless, Frantic, and
Fearful”? Quite a few.
The irony was painfully amusing. This blind man could be the most peaceful fellow on the street. No diploma, no awards, and no future—at least in the aggressive sense of the word. But I wondered how many in that urban stampede would trade their boardrooms and blue suits in a second for a chance to drink at this young man’s well.
“Faith is the bird that sings while it is yet dark.”
Before I helped my friend back to his position, I tried to verbalize my empathy. “Life is hard, isn’t it?” A slight smile. He again turned his face toward the direction of my voice and started to respond, then paused and said, “I’d better get back to work.”
For almost a block, I could hear him singing. And in my mind’s eye I
could still see him. But the man I now saw was a different one than the one to whom I’d given a few coins. Though the man I now saw was still sightless, he was remarkably insightful. And though I was the one with eyes, it was he who gave me a new vision.
|COMFORTING by Charles Swindoll|
|I WANT THAT ONE by Charles Stanley|
|HE NEEDED A SON|
|LITTLE FLOWER by James McCutcheon|
|SIGNIFICANCE by R. C||Sproul|
|INFORMATION PLEASE by Paul Villiard|
|BEETHOVEN'S GIFT by Philip Yancey|
|AT THE WINTER FEEDER by John Leax|
|MAKE ME LIKE JOE! by Tony Campolo|
|LADY, ARE YOU RICH? by Marion Doolan|
|TO MY NEIGHBOR by Mother Teresa|
|A GUY NAMED BILL by Rebecca Manley Pippert, retold by Alice Gray|
|AUTUMN DANCE by Robin Jones Gunn|
|TO MY NURSES|
|A SECOND CHANCE by Billy Graham|
|ETERNAL HARMONY by John MacArthur, retold by Casandra Lindell|
|ARE YOU GOD? by Charles Swindoll|
|WORDS MUST WAIT by Ruth Bell Graham|
|THE SECRET by Paul Harvey|
|I DON'T BELIEVE A WORD OF IT by Howard Hendricks|
|A PERFECT POT OF TEA by Roberta Messner|
|ENCOURAGING WORDS by Susan Maycinik|
|THREE LETTERS FROM TEDDY by Elizabeth Silance Ballard|
|THE COMFORT OF A COLD, WET NOSE by Barbara Baumgardner|
|GIVING AND RECEIVING by Billie Davis|
|TEACHER DAN by Marilyn McAuley|
|THE MENDER by Ruth Bell Graham|
|LONG RANGE VISION by Howard Hendricks|
|THE RED COAT by Melody Carlson|
|THE YOUNG WIDOW by Alice Gray|
|MICHAEL'S STORY BEGINS AT AGE SIX by Charlotte Elmore|
|ANOTHER CHANCE by H||Stephen Glenn and Jane Nelsen|
|COME IN TOGETHER by Stu Weber|
|FIRST THINGS by Tony Campolo|
|THESE THINGS I WISH FOR YOU by Paul Harvey|
|WHY I'M A SPORTS MOM by Judy Bodmer|
|TO WHOM SHALL I LEAVE MY KINGDOM? by Donald E||Wildmon|
|THE MAGNADOODLE MESSAGE by Liz Curtis Higgs|
|BEAUTY CONTEST by Carla Muir|
|BOUQUET by David Seamands|
|OLYMPIC GOLD by Catherine Swift|
|A CANDY BAR by Doris Sanford|
|WHAT TO LISTEN FOR by Tim Hansel|
|GOOD TURN by Nola Bertelson|
|BEHIND THE QUICK SKETCH by Joni Eareckson Tada|
|ANDROCLUS AND THE LION by Autus Gellius, retold by Casandra Lindell|
|GOSSIP by Billy Graham|
|THE TOE-TAPPER by Joan Sparks|
|TAKING SIDES by Zig Ziglar|
|THE DRESS by Margaret Jensen|
|DISTANT RELATIVES by Carla Muir|
|IT'S MORE THAN A JOB by Charles Swindoll|
|A TENDER WARRIOR by Stu Weber|
|THE PENCIL BOX by Doris Sanford|
|SHE'S MY PRECIOUS by Robertson McQuilkin|
|THE FINAL BID by Robert Strand|
|THE GOOD STUFF by Robert Fulghum|
|SHOOOOPPPING! by Gary Smalley|
|HEIRLOOM by Ann Weems, retold by Alice Gray|
|IT HAPPENED ON THE BROOKLYN SUBWAY by Paul Deutschman|
|LOVE IS A GRANDPARENT by Erma Bombeck|
|LOVE FROM THE HEART by Chad Miller|
|EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE by Jo Ann Larsen|
|50 PROMISES FOR MARRIAGE by Steve Stephens|
|THE TREASURE by Alice Gray|
|THAT LITTLE CHINA CHIP by Bettie B||Youngs|
|THE DANCE by Thelda Bevens|
|DON'T FORGET WHAT REALLY MATTERS by Paul Harvey|
|THE LAST "I LOVE YOU" by Debbi Smoot|
|A MOMENT IN TIME by Matthew Norquist|
|WHEN GROWN KIDS COME TO VISIT by Erma Bombeck|
|RUNNING AWAY by Christopher de Vinck|
|WHY MY WIFE BOUGHT HANDCUFFS by Philip Gulley|
|TOO BUSY by Ron Mehl|
|WHEN THE MOON DOESN'T SHINE by Ruth Senter|
|FATHER'S DAY: A TRIBUTE by Max Lucado|
|RELEASING THE ARROW by Stu Weber|
|LAUGHTER IN THE WALLS by Bob Benson|
|DAD'S HELPER by Ron Mehl|
|LEGACY OF AN ADOPTED CHILD|
|THE GIFT by George Parler|
|ALONE TIME FOR MOM by Crystal Kirg iss|
|WORDS FOR YOUR FAMILY by Gary Smalley and John Trent|
|GIFT OF LOVE by James Dobson|
|A MOTHER'S WAY by Temple Bailey|
|TENDER INTUITION by Robin Jones Gunn|
|SLIPPERY RISKS by Heather Harpham Kopp|
|FAMILY VACATIONS AND OTHER THREATS TO MARRIAGE by Philip Gulley|
|WHEN GOD CREATED FATHERS by Erma Bombeck|
|NO BOX by Kenneth Caraway|
|LOOKIN' GOOD by Patsy Clairmont|
|A STREET VENDOR NAMED CONTENTMENT by Max Lucado|
|DEATH AND THE DAWN by Pearl S||Buck|
|GROWING ROOTS by Philip Gulley|
|PERSPECTIVE by Marilyn McAuley|
|SAVING THE BROKEN PIECES by Robert Schuller|
|TRAIN TO BARCELONA by Jori Senter Stuart|
|SANDCASTLES by Max Lucado|
|THE CRAZY QUILT by Melody Carlson|
|ONE MAN'S JUNK||ANOTHER MAN'S TREASURE by Ron Mehl|
|COMMENCE PRAYER by Charles Swindoll|
|SECRET CRACKS AND CREVICES by Melody Carlson|
|BACK ON COURSE by Sandy Snavely|
|REDWOOD CANYON by Casandra Lindell|
|LIFE BEGINS AT 80 by Frank Laubach|
|BUS STOP by Patsy Clairmont|
|CINDERELLA by Max Lucado|
|A NEW PERSPECTIVE by Billy Graham|
|TREASURES IN HEAVEN by Bob Welch|
|HIDE AND SEEK by Brother David Steindl-Rast, retold by Brennan Manning|
|THE LAMPLIGHTER by Marilyn McAuley|
|SOFT CRIES by Ruth Bell Graham|
|SPIRITUAL HERO by James Dobson|
|DRIFTING by Tony Evans|
|ONLY GLIMPSES by Alice Gray|
|THE CASTLE OF GOD'S LOVE by Larry Libby|
|A VISION OF FORGIVENESS by Gigi Tchividjian|
|A MEETING OF THE MINDS by Kevin Keller|
|FRIGHTENED SPARROWS by Paul Harvey, retold by Philip Yancey|
|RUNNING FOR DADDY! by Kay Arthur|
|REAL TREASURE by Robin Jones Gunn|
|CALM IN THE STORM by Ron Mehl|
|A PARABLE OF GOD'S PERSPECTIVE by Robin Jones, retold by Casandra Lindell|
|WORSHIP AND WORRY by Ruth Bell Graham|
|ARE ALL THE CHILDREN IN?|
|MAKING ADJUSTMENTS by Ron Mehl|
|RAGMAN by Walter J||Wangerin|
|THE BELLS ARE RINGING by James Dobson|
Posted April 30, 2000
I loved this book and find it very touching and just plain good. I love the Chicken Soup books and put this in the same catagory except even find it one step better.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.