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A Sweet Sound

What are some of the sweetest sounds you have ever heard? Maybe the softly spoken “I do” at the crescendo of a wedding ceremony. Maybe the initial cry of your newborn finally breathing air for the first time. Maybe the words of someone you love saying, “I’m coming home.” Maybe the clock striking 5, letting you know the workday is done. Maybe the sound of the waves crashing at the ocean or the gentle breeze wafting through the mountain trees.

One of the sweetest sounds I ever remember came from an unexpected place and it was certainly not a sound you would normally place into the category of “sweetest.” In fact, it sounded something like a cross between an unintelligible moan and a course grunt. However, in this context, it was beautiful.

I was 17 and in my senior year of high school. I had taken an elective called “Peer Counseling.” In that class, I had to serve in an internship somewhere. I chose a facility right down the road that was a school for the mentally and physically disadvantaged. In this setting, I was specifically assigned to a boy named Jessie. I’m not sure how old Jessie was, but he probably was a younger teenager. Jessie had a severe form of cerebral palsy and was confined to a specialty wheelchair. In addition to that condition, he was also blind.

I went to spend time with Jessie once or twice a week that semester. When I would walk in, the teacher would say, “Jessie, Bill is here.” It is at that moment that a moan/grunt would forcefully proceed from his lungs out of his mouth. It was the kind of sound that would make most people uncomfortable, not so much out of disgust or fear, but just not knowing what to do with it. I knew what to do with it though. I embraced it. I am certain that moan/grunt was his way of welcoming me.

I would make my way to Jessie, touch his arm to let him know I was near, and we would begin the task for the day. One of the more frequent tasks we would do dealt with a peg board. Basically, Jessie had to take pegs and stick them in the board. An activity that would seem so elementary and childish for most of us, was a daunting task for him. I would put the peg in his contorted hand and help guide it across the board to find a hole in which to place it. Finding the hole without being able to see was difficult enough for him. The seemingly simple act of pushing the peg into the hole without muscle coordination was anything but simple.

My gaze would go from his hand to his face. A face set atop an arched neck and back, usually with a little drool seeping out the side of his mouth, eyes unfocused drifting toward the ceiling. His face was also smiling. And my face, without fail, was being stained by some tears.

God used this boy, who had never seen my face or properly pronounced my name or firmly grasped my hand in a handshake, to make in indelible mark on my life. I had gone to work with him and encourage him; however, in the process, I was actually the one getting worked on.

It reminds me of when Paul sent Timothy back to the young fledgling church in Thessalonica to check on their faith. The church there was born immediately into persecution and trouble. Paul was concerned for them. He says in 1 Thessalonians 3:2, “and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith.” The word he uses for “exhort” in this verse is the same word that he uses for himself in verse 7: “for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith.” {The underlined words are the same in the original language.} Paul knew that the giving of himself for the sake of others (See 1 Thess. 2:8) would not only impart blessing and encouragement to the receivers but also himself. And I realized that every moment I spent with Jessie, God was blessing me more than him.

It also reminds me that Jesus can use anyone, anytime, and anywhere to show His glory. He can take a loaf of bread, feed 5000, and show that He is the Bread of life. He can take a man born blind, open those eyes, and show that He is the Light of the world. He can take a jar full of water, turn it into the finest wine, and show that He is the Vine. He can take a decaying corpse, raise it to life, and show that He is the Resurrection and the Life. And Jesus can take a blind boy with cerebral palsy and show me that every person is precious in His sight.

My assignment in that class was to spend time helping and investing time with the less fortunate, but I became the real recipient:

  • God used Jessie to teach me not to complain about the meaningless inconveniences in life that would often irritate me.

  • God used Jessie to teach me that there can be a bond between people no matter what the physical barriers may be.

  • God used Jessie to teach me that value in God’s eyes is not based on what we can do, but simply on being created by Him, in His image, for His glory.

  • God used Jessie to teach me that love can often be communicated strongly without the use of words.

  • God used Jessie to teach me that every ounce of effort I put into serving others in His name will be multiplied and returned back to me.

And from those lessons as a young 17-year-old, I have never been the same. Thank you, Jessie. Thank you, Lord.


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