I arrived home on Friday afternoon on the final day of my Restricted Electrical License course and Sam asked me ‘So what did you learn today Dad?’
‘Kindness’ I said.
It wasn’t in the course outline. I doubt it is likely to be assessed but it was what I learnt. I actually drove home humbled, inspired and disturbed. As I tried to explain my day to Danelle I found myself overcome with emotion. It was a powerful day and one that left a significant impression.
But to make sense of Friday I need to go back to Monday when the course began and 5 of us lobbed into the classroom. It was a pretty quiet room. I managed to get some conversation going with the techy, service guy from Five Senses Coffee, but other than that no one was talking. The guy next to me called Dave didn’t look up and didn’t seem to want to engage with anyone.
Day one rolled by very quietly – almost morgue like in the class – awkwardly so – but on day two I needed to talk with Dave to do a project together. We had become ‘partners’ for the week. I had hoped I’d be able to team up with someone else who seemed a bit more energetic, but I got Dave…
As I spoke with him I discovered he had driven down from Karratha and was sleeping in his car to save money. The lost income, cost of the course and the travel already came to about $5K so he was doing it rough. He was mid 50’s, single, living in a caravan… He had never been married and was I was guessing a little odd…
I had a fleeting thought that I should invite him home and give him our spare room for the week, but I dismissed it fairly quickly, because we have two kids and Dave would be sleeping right next to them. And he could be a paedophile… right?… Best to play it safe. I didn’t know the guy and he could be a danger to Danelle and the kids.
Safety first. That’s wise… right?…
So he slept in his car that night out the back of Wanneroo somewhere and it poured with rain. Apparently it wasn’t a very pleasant night as his tarp leaked and he had to curl up in the passenger seat.
Wednesday was the wettest day of the week and as we talked that day he told me he was seeking a hotel, but they all seemed to be fully booked. I thought again about inviting him home, because the kids were with their grandparents for the evening, but instead told him about the Indian Ocean hotel in Scarborough. They should be easy to get into. He could have come back to our place, but I was tired. I wanted a quiet night and I wasn’t convinced having a stranger in the house would give me that.
It wasn’t convenient for me that evening. So Dave ended up driving across town to Midland where he got a spot in a caravan park, because the Indian Ocean and everything else nearby was fully booked.
I had those disturbing scriptures flash thru my mind… stuff about sheep and goats… hungry, thirsty, homeless… and whatever you did to the least of these you did to me.
It did’t dawn on me then then that Jesus was in my course that week, but I did know I wasn’t sitting well with my decision not to invite Dave home.
I was completely conscious that safety and convenience had guided my choice. I could easily have helped the bloke out, but it wasn’t as easy as I would have liked it to be – and I needed my space too… That’s fair. Right?…
When class started on Thursday it was full tilt into practical projects. Testing, wiring, circuits and motors. I am not a natural with this stuff and I felt very much at sea. As Dave and I paired up to do the tests I found myself relying on him to help me. As a fridge mechanic he knew stuff from 20 years of experience that I didn’t and he was fairly natural at it all.
As the projects became more complex I found myself further and further out of my depth. And each time Dave came to my aid. He was a very quietly spoken bloke, even seemed to lack a bit of confidence, but he was patient and always willing to explain to me what I was doing wrong.
The lecturers pretty much left us to our own devices so it hadn’t been for him I would have learnt very little on the practical front.
On the final day we had two significant tasks to complete. When we had done them we could go home – early. Everyone wanted to go home early. It had been a long long week. Task one was to be done in pairs. Dave finished up with me again… I felt like apologising that he had drawn the short straw… It was a fairly complicated task and a synthesis of all we had done over the week. It was more than my brain could hold together.
This time I was very aware of him teaching me as we were doing it. Previously we had done stuff together and I had served as the gopher, but now he was slowing for me and helping me ‘get it’. He knew I wasn’t in the game.
With that completed we went to lunch and then returned with the task of wiring up 3 motors from a circuit diagram after which we could go home. Embarrassingly I found myself struggling yet again. Faulty test equipment didn’t help, but I was finding it hard to follow the diagram and know what to do. After 20 minutes Dave had finished his first one and I was still at step 1. I was despairing.
Dave saw my frustration, stopped what he was doing and came over to help me. He walked me right through the first motor and answered my questions as we went. I learnt how to do it. I began to feel confident and then managed the second with minimal help and the third on my own.
Dave and I were the last ones to leave the workshop – me because I was slow and him also because I was slow – and because he chose to stay there and help me.
As I was walking back to class to finish up I realised I had been blessed by someone who chose to show kindness and compassion when it probably wasn’t easy or convenient. He had taken his time with me and gone out of his way to make sure I understood.
I realised Dave had shown me what Jesus is like… Dave gave me a lesson in electrics, but more than that he gave me a lesson in living like Christ.
As I drove home to write a sermon on mission and reaching out to others – the last in a 5 month series I clearly sensed God saying to me ‘you met Jesus this week’. The first time you met him, you let him sleep in in the cold when you had a room. The second time you met him he gave you a lesson in how to love and show kindness.
Still so much to learn.