Sunday, March 9, 2014

Noticing the Other Person

I once read a story about a fellow who dies and finds himself in a shimmering realm.  He thinks to himself, "I guess I was better than I thought."

An angel approaches him.  The angel ushers him into a regal banquet hall in which an immense table is laid out with unimaginable delicacies.  He is seated at the table with many others and a choice selection of food is served.  As he picks up his fork and prepares to eat, the angel comes from behind and straps thin boards on the back of his arms so he cannot bend his elbows.  As he continues trying to pick up the food, he becomes aware that the boards prevent him from getting it to his mouth.  He cannot maneuver in order to feed himself.

Looking about, he notes that all the other people around the table have their arms similarly strapped to boards so that they cannot bend their arms either.  They are grunting and groaning as they attempt to get food into their mouths.

So the man turns to the angel standing beside him and says, "This must be hell?"  "Uh, huh," says the angel.  "What about heaven?" asks the man?

So the angel shows him into another huge banquet hall in which there sits another great table ladened with an equally delectable array of food.  "Ah," says the man, "this is more like it!"  And sitting down, he is about to help himself once again when another angel comes and ties boards to the back of his arms so that, once again, he cannot bend his elbows to feed himself.  Lamenting that this is the same maddening situation as hell, he looks about in his dismay and notices that, at this table, there is something different happening.

Instead of people trying desperately to help themselves, straining against the rigidity of their arms, each person is holding his or her arm straight and feeding the person on either side.  Each person is feeding the person next to him/her and everyone in the room is completely satisfied.

"So this is heaven!" the man finally realizes.  And the angel standing beside him says, "Uh, huh."

The difference between heaven and hell according to this little story is that hell is where one is wholly focused on feeding oneself, paying no attention to anyone else.  Heaven, on the other hand, is all about noticing, helping, lifting, feeding, and caring about the other person next to us.

No comments:

Post a Comment