By: Ginger Hughes

The sun’s warmth, combined with the gentlest of breezes, made for a perfect day to be outdoors.  We shimmied our way between young and old alike to find the best spot for bear watching.  We were visiting a national park that has created space for a few rescued animals including two black bears.  To help visitors catch a glimpse, each day the Rangers will provide a treat, toy, or some other enrichment activity to entice the bears toward the areas where onlookers can more clearly see them.

On this particular day, the Ranger squirted some blueberry syrup on a large round disk and sent it partially flying, partially falling into their enclosure.  The kids were mesmerized, and even the adults enjoyed seeing the bears quickly emerge to get their treat.

“Ethan!  Ethan!”  I heard someone call, while everyone was oohing and aahing over the bears. My little ones continued to point and ask a myriad of important questions such as, “Mama, can the bears get out?”  “What would happen if we went in there with the bears?”  “Mama, do bears like to play?”  Combine their questions with that of dozens of other children’s questions and adult conversations, and it was indeed noisy.

“ETHAN!  ETHAN!!”  I heard again in the distance.  The children continued pointing and laughing, but you could see the demeanor of the adults slowly begin to change as we each looked around realizing something was wrong.

I looked up the hill and saw a woman running towards us, screaming again, and then I heard a man’s voice in the distance yelling, “ETHAN!”  Women and men alike immediately began to converge around this lady, realizing her child was lost, saying, “Show me his picture! What is he wearing?  How old is he?”  We ran over to look at her phone.  Dark hair, a bright red shirt… this photo was taken just a few minutes earlier.

“Oh my God, Oh my God!” she was saying. She was shaking now, breathing in and out so fast I thought she may hyperventilate.  “We’re going to find him,” everyone was saying at once as we all began to fan out to the various pathways, trails, and woods.  The Park Rangers were there now as well.  They spoke quickly and efficiently into their radios alerting all personnel; a little boy was missing.

I was walking quickly, calling like dozens of other men and women, my heart racing.  Even though he wasn’t my child, I could feel the fear, smell the stench of it.  I felt sick inside with the “what if’s.”

Everyone was scrambling around, calling out, when we finally heard, “WE’VE GOT HIM!  WE’VE GOT HIM!”  He had been found!  I hurriedly climbed back up the hill in time to see this five-year-old scooped up into his mama’s lap, legs dangling down, as she rocked back and forth, back and forth, sobbing.  Gut-wrenching sobs that I could feel in my soul.  My eyes filled with tears, and you could feel the collective sigh of everyone there; a giant exhale as if we’d all been holding our breath this entire time.

That’s been several weeks ago now, but as I’ve thought back over that day, something has begun to stand out to me. In fact, it is what did not happen that seems so at odds with the current culture.

When the call for help was heard, the only response was action.  No one stopped to look at their watch to determine if they had time to help.  No one stopped to consider the color of their skin.  No one stopped to ask which political party this family supported. No one asked if they were churchgoers, and if so, to what affiliation did they belong.

Not one person.

Why? Because in moments like this, you don’t take time to ponder these details.  You respond to the one calling out.  You answer the call for help.

People are calling out for help every day.  We know people who are lost.  They are lost in fear, depression, brokenness, anger, loneliness, or sin.  They cry out through broken hearts and hollowed eyes.  The question is simple.  Do we respond to their call immediately, or do we pass them by?

At times, it seems our children, marriages, jobs, and interests are making so much noise that we no longer hear the silent screams of those who are suffering. We don’t notice the footprints of despair left by the ones walking beside us.  At other times, we become so fixated on all of the ways a person is different than ourselves, that we miss their worth as God’s child.

Friends, we must take time to notice people, and we must take the time to care.

We need not only the ears to listen, but also the heart to hear the silent pleading.  We need not only eyes to see, but also the heart to perceive the fear and the brokenness.  We need not only the capacity to help, but also the heart to be moved to action on their behalf.

Let’s look up and away from ourselves this week.  Let’s look into the eyes of another, and really listen.  And when we hear the call for help, let’s not concern ourselves with anything other than answering their call by sharing God’s love and extending a hand of grace.

-Ginger Hughes is the wife of a pastor, a mother of two and an accountant. She is a Georgia native currently living in the foothills of North Carolina. Her passion for writing is fueled by the desire to offer encouragement, grace and a deeper understanding that we are all God’s children. Her blogging for Nurturing Faith is sponsored by a gift from First Baptist Church of Gainesville, Ga. Additional writings may be found at nomamasperfect.com.

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