Saturday, May 20, 2017

Noticing the Person Next to Us

I don’t know where this story comes from but it is a good story.  A man died and found himself in a new realm.  He thinks perhaps he has made the grade and is in heaven.  An angel leads him into a great 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 to him.  As he picks up his fork and prepares to eat, the angel approaches him from behind and straps a thin board to the back of his arms so that he cannot bend his elbows.  He continues to try to pick up the food, but he can’t get the food to his mouth.  He cannot maneuver his arms in order to feed himself.

Looking around, 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 eat.  But they cannot, and there is great wailing and moaning at their predicament.

The man turns to the angel standing nearby and says, “This must be hell?”  “Uh, huh,” says the angel.  “What is heaven like then?” the man asked.

So the angel leads him into another huge banquet hall in which there is another great table filled 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 the angel comes and ties a board 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 sitting next to them.  Each person is feeding the person next to him 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 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 persons around us.

Notice the lilies, to be sure, but notice also
the person next to you.

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