I met a man last week.

It happened in the course of doing my job, which sometimes causes me to cross paths with someone I might otherwise never meet. The time we spent together couldn’t have been more than 20 minutes, but that was more than enough for me to walk away with a lasting impression.

You see, I met the man at the site of a house being rebuilt that had burned last summer. He’s a contractor who was not only involved in the home’s reconstruction, but was also an integral part of an organized effort to provide free labor for the project.

These days, that would be reason for many people to want their name waved in front of the masses, so they could be recognized for their charity. But this man was not your standard, run-of-the-mill American focused on self-gratification and glorification.

Entirely in opposition to that, this gentleman chose to remain anonymous, and graciously opted out of having his name associated with the project. Basically, he humbled himself.“I couldn’t care less if my name is even mentioned,” he said. “I didn’t do this as an advertising campaign and I don’t care what everybody else thinks. I just want to stay under the rock.”

Doug Davison

Now, it’s not as if I’ve never before witnessed a similar act, but for whatever reason, it made a strong impression on me this time. That’s probably because I believe real comprehension of the concept of humility is pretty rare nowadays. Rather than requesting anonymity, most people in a similar situation would probably be making sure their name was correctly spelled and perhaps that several other people also “got their due.”

Not the man I met this day.

“Just knowing what it means to them and seeing the looks on their faces is worth more than a bunch of fame and money,” he said. “Money is just worthless goo, anyway. Someone once said it’s nothing to worry about, anyway, because it’s all just on paper.”

That’s all easy to say (and lots of people might say it), but I know in my heart this man meant it. And while I understand the idea of giving honor where it’s due, I admire the act of considering glory to be secondary to charity.

I believe this is precisely what the King James Bible writers were getting at by using the word “charity” when translating some statements made by the Apostle Paul. One of the strongest of those statements is in I Corinthians 13:2, which basically says we could be the most powerful, impressive, even “religious” person in existence, but if we lack charity, we’re nonetheless worthless.

Ironically, the man I met pointed out that he didn’t consider himself very “religious.” I found that ironic because I’ll bet most people who do consider themselves “religious” (or “spiritual”) wouldn’t shun recognition for charity.

Whenever I ponder this kind of thing, I’m reminded of Jesus speaking of the “hypocrites” who would stand and pray in churches or on street corners in order to make sure people would notice (see Matthew 6:5).

Not good. But in the same manner, I guess “works” have – to more than a small extent – become a popular way to measure how “godly” or “spirit-filled” someone is, or what a “good person” they are, so it stands to reason people would seek recognition for them.

Of course, good deeds aren’t all bad. As Jesus’ half-brother James told us, “works” can denote faith. But the disconnect occurs when someone considers it paramount to receive the approval of man rather than being satisfied with that of God.

Anyway, I think it’s safe to say that true charity and unbridled generosity are becoming increasingly rare. But even in an environment ruled largely by misguided values and thought processes (where so-called leaders often carry on like tom turkeys in mating season, millions of individuals feel as if they’re somehow entitled to gain without effort, and too much focus is given to fame, material goods, power and other selfish subjects), scattered pockets of humility and sanity can still be found.

But they’re fewer and farther between by the day.

So, I met a man last week. He had a great sense of humor, and an even greater sense of humility. But don’t ask me his name, because I won’t tell you, and that’s the way he wants it.

“I’m a bug on the windshield,” he said.

That makes two of us.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email:  ddavison@houstonherald.com.

 

Advertisements