Every day, we are given opportunities to be present in the lives of others. Sometimes, our lives intersect in happy events like school graduations, weddings or the birth of a child. And sometimes, it is in the worst of times.
This story starts in the worst of times.
Three years ago today, I was working in my office, as a local emergency manager. Over the previous few years, my office had learned how to use social media and was using it regularly for outreach, relationship building and to see how our community would comment on issues relating to emergency response.
And as a 911 and Emergency Management agency, we had gotten to “know” our scanner tweeters. In our local area, we had about 5 people who would share what they heard on the public safety scanner onto Twitter and as an emergency manager, we had become accustomed to watching their shares along with those of the media and our public safety partners. It actually helped us to see how events in our local community were being perceived and allowed us to engage in conversation to help educate the general public who was watching both our agency and the comments of our local scanner tweeters.
Truthfully, when you chat with people online in this manner, you feel like you get to know them and eventually, I have found myself with a whole set of friends who all met online first about 5-8 years ago.
And, on this day 3 years ago, we watched the tweets of one of our scanner friends converge with one of our state trooper colleagues about a fatal car accident. That vehicle was driven by the husband of our scanner friend.
I remember how time stopped in my office. We could not confirm the identity of the driver even though our scanner friend had called 911. It was office protocol that death notification had to be given in person and not over the phone. And, as time marched forward, my heart broke into a million little pieces as she scrambled to obtain information while growing anxious that her husband was late and not responding to her calls. As she continued to share online, we all felt helpless as we watched each tweet.
This story quickly gained national recognition and soon, our friend had both local and national news media on her doorstep as she also grieved and aimed to be present for her young boys.
Fast forward to 2 months ago where my friend posted on Facebook that her youngest son was looking for a youth group. Knowing that her son was close in age to my daughter, I shared some information about our church’s youth group. And, another mom from our church also shared about the same group as she also had known my friend from years ago when their kids were babies together and they participated in a Mom’s group.
And today, we were privileged to watch this young man share his testimony and get baptized.
On a day so marked with tragedy and loss, it was very emotional to watch this special son share about how his faith in Jesus has helped him deal with anger and have real hope for his future.
Surrounded by his family, his smile was inspiring.
It was a rare gift to be present and able to witness this baptism on this anniversary of a most difficult loss.
I am confident that God has some amazing adventures in store for this young man. My prayer for this family is that despite their worst losses, they will have peace and know that they are loved by a God who knows exactly what they are going through.
When we think of “lives of faith,” I find that some people are called to a life of preaching, others to worship and some are called to serve in mission fields in far away countries. But sometimes, the most humbling calling we can have is to simply be present in the lives of others, no matter whether it be the best or worst day of someone’s life. Don’t be afraid. Reach out. Listen. Be attentive to the needs of others.
And always keep a few Kleenex in your purse. Because days like today (and 3 years ago) require them.