Friday, May 19, 2006

Blessed are the gentle

Lazaro was one of our staff in Zambia, an ex-soldier who had no idea of his own strength. He was immensely friendly, willing and eager to do whatever he could to help. The only trouble was that because he was so strong, he broke almost everything he handled. In theory, Lazaro, with his abundant self-confidence, could repair anything, could do anything, could achieve anything. In practice, the bill for his breakages was big and growing bigger. With the best will in the world, he had an amazing ability to break things…until the day I saw him with his 12 year-old daughter, who was suffering from malaria. He was sitting on an upturned bucket, holding her in his arms…and she might have been made of the most fragile of cut glass. Never did I imagine that my good friend Lazaro could be so tender and gentle. It was beautiful to see.

…and that reminds me of an old story about an argument between the sun and the wind as to who was the stronger of the two. In the end, they agreed that whoever could encourage a passer-by to remove his jacket would be the stronger.

First the wind blew as a gentle breeze. The man ignored him, so the wind blew more strongly. He pulled his hat more firmly on his head and continued walking. The wind blew stronger and stronger. The man buttoned up his jacket, wrapped his arms around his body and bent his head into the wind. He refused to remove his jacket.

Then the sun took its turn. He shone very gently. The man relaxed his tensed-up walk. The sun shone more strongly. The man unbuttoned his jacket. Within a few minutes, the man was smiling. He removed his jacket, slung it over his shoulders and carried on his way, whistling and looking happy.

“Blessed are the gentle…” Gentleness is far more powerful than brute force. How many times have I turned away from a bully but turned towards someone who has been gentle?

God bless,