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May 11, 2005 “Sunshine Following the Rain!” Philemon: 17-19 Key verse(s) 18:“If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.”

There is that precious, opportunistic moment; when a gentle hand by a touch on the shoulder is able to magically remove the sting of failure from the midst of defeat. There is something about a shoulder that invites attention when we are slumped in sorrow, embarrassment or exhaustion. Shoulders drop when the heart aches. Shoulders stoop when the head falls. In this sense they are the signpost by which others must know there is a disaster brewing within. The funny thing about it is that the same sign affects different people in different ways.

There are those people who avoid contact when others are hurting. It’s almost as if they sense that whatever it is that they have, they don’t want it to be transmitted to them. “If pain and defeat look like this, I certainly don’t want any part of it.” Then there are those who, upon seeing someone else downtrodden, identify all too clearly with the emotion. They feel it in their hearts and reflect upon a time when they too were so stricken. “That hurts and the more and more I look at it, the more I remember my own hurt.” They are quick to move on. But, thank God, there are those who are drawn to the slumped shoulder of the wounded warrior. They see it as an opportunity to intervene and stop the hurt. They see it as a way of lifting someone up, even transferring some of that pain to themselves in order to keep the warrior standing. “Give me some of your hurt. I just can’t bear to see you suffer so.”

There are many heroes in this life. Some bravely climb mountains or catch touchdown passes. But there is none more brave than the one who is willing to take on the hurt of another and pump encouragement into them, giving them hope in a hopeless situation.

Edward Steichen, who eventually became one of the world’s most renowned photographers, almost gave up on the day he shot his first pictures. At 16, young Steichen bought a camera and took 50 photos. Only one turned out -- a portrait of his sister at the piano. Edward’s father thought that was a poor showing. But his mother insisted that the photograph of his sister was so beautiful that it more than compensated for 49 failures. Her encouragement convinced the youngster to stick with his new hobby. He stayed with it for the rest of his life, but it had been a close call. What tipped the scales? The vision to spot excellence in the midst of a lot of failure. (Bits & Pieces, February 4, 1993, pp. 4-5.)

We can express our love for others in many ways. There is, perhaps, no greater and more meaningful way of showing we care than making sure that we are always...

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