On Simply Being There

It is a good thing that you exist!

There are millions of Christians in the world today, so that means there are millions of things we can be doing for Christ and the Kingdom. You might have guessed by now that one of my main giftings is teaching, writing and the like. So that is what I do. I cannot do lots of other things that are good and helpful, such as tend your garden, but I can crank out articles for a website fairly quickly and easily.

But some of you will never write nor teach. But you all have your own callings and gifts and abilities that can be used for God and his glory. You might be a good singer or songwriter. You might be eager to help the elderly. You might be good at helping fix peoples’ cars or being a general handyman. You might be a nurse who loves to help the sick.

You might be a good cook, and love to practice the gift of hospitality. You might be a scientist who seeks to glorify God in your profession. You might be a stay-at-home mum who is doing a terrific – if unnoticed – job of looking after your family and running the home. The list is endless of course. And most of these folks will never be recognised, at least by the world.

Just moments ago on the social media a friend had posted the following:

This is an excellent research project for anyone wanting to do an Honors or Masters thesis or a PhD: A History of Women against Feminism in Australia during the 1960s and 1970s. You could begin by pointing out … that these anti-feminist movements WERE women’s movements, they just rejected the feminist agenda that they considered to be anti-family, anti-motherhood, anti-children, anti-men, and ultimately anti-women.

I instantly shot off 4 quick replies:

“Champions that I have long been involved with, such as Babette Francis of Endeavour Forum (formerly Women Who Want to Be Women) would of course have to be included here. There are so many unsung heroes that deserve recognition and praise.”

“Phyllis Boyd was another Melbourne-based champ that I worked with for many years.”

“Then we have great pro-lifers such as Margaret Tighe and Denise Cameron, etc. The list goes on and on.”

“Ros Phillips of FamilyVoice is another long-serving champ.”

While many pro-life, pro-family, and pro-faith Australians would know of these five women, most folks would not, thus the need for a book-length discussion of them and the role they played here down under. But in addition to those who did make some sort of name for themselves, there would be so many more that no one has ever heard of – or ever will hear of.

As I said, faithful and dedicated homemakers, wives and mothers would be among them. Day after day they do such great work, as unto the Lord. Only in the next life with they be recognised for their service. But then again, as we understand, even any praise and recognition that these folks get in the next life will be turned right back to Jesus. Any crowns we get for faithful service will be laid right back at the feet of Jesus where they rightly belong.

While God gets all the credit, we still all have a role to play. We are called to keep busy for the work of the Kingdom (‘Occupy till I come’ as Jesus put it in a parable). Our work of course will largely go unrecognised and ignored in this life. But we keep at it regardless.

I at least need to keep all these truths in mind. The truth is, I am a bit of a pessimist and a melancholic. I tend to look at this world and see more suffering and evil than joy and goodness. Simply reading the daily newspaper headlines can wear me out. But that is just me.

So when I am thinking this way, I need to be reminded by God of all the good that his people are doing throughout the world. I think of one mother for example who has a special needs child, an unbelieving husband, and is in constant physical pain herself. Yet she keeps on keeping on, praising God along the way. I try to pray for her daily.

I am glad that she is there. The world will know nothing about all the good she is doing, despite all the suffering she must endure, but God knows. And I know. So folks like her inspire me to keep going. Too often I want to give up. I know that many people feel this way. But we need to see the bigger picture. We need to see eternity.

With all this in mind I am reminded of a story I once read. It is a story, and not an actual true-life event. But it likely would reflect things that have actually happened. It is a very moving and powerful tear-jerker that we can all benefit from. The story goes like this:

A nurse took the tired, anxious serviceman to the bedside. “Your son is here,” she said to the old man. She had to repeat the words several times before the patient’s eyes opened.

Heavily sedated because of the pain of his heart attack, he dimly saw the young uniformed Marine standing outside the oxygen tent. He reached out his hand. The Marine wrapped his toughened fingers around the old man’s limp ones, squeezing a message of love and encouragement.

The nurse brought a chair so that the Marine could sit beside the bed. All through the night the young Marine sat there in the poorly lighted ward, holding the old man’s hand and offering him words of love and strength. Occasionally, the nurse suggested that the Marine move away and rest awhile. He refused.

Whenever the nurse came into the ward, the Marine was oblivious of her and of the night noises of the hospital – the clanking of the oxygen tank, the laughter of the night staff members exchanging greetings, the cries and moans of the other patients. Now and then she heard him say a few gentle words. The dying man said nothing, only held tightly to his son all through the night.

Along towards dawn, the old man died. The Marine released the now lifeless hand he had been holding and went to tell the nurse. While she did what she had to do, he waited.

Finally, she returned. She started to offer words of sympathy, but the Marine interrupted her, “Who was that man?” he asked.

The nurse was startled, “He was your father,” she answered.

“No, he wasn’t,” the Marine replied. “I never saw him before in my life.”

“Then why didn’t you say something when I took you to him?”

“I knew right away there had been a mistake, but I also knew he needed his son, and his son just wasn’t here. When I realized that he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son, knowing how much he needed me, I stayed. I came here tonight to find a Mr. William Grey. His Son was killed in Iraq today, and I was sent to inform him. What was this Gentleman’s Name?”

The nurse with tears in her eyes answered, “Mr. William Grey………”

The next time someone needs you … just be there. Stay.

When I tried to look up the source of this story, I learned that it was in fact merely a work of fiction. One fact-checking site had said this about the story:

This particular account is not a true story, however, but rather a work of short fiction authored by Roy Popkin in 1964. It was published under the title “Night Watch” in the September 1965 edition of Reader’s Digest and has subsequently been reprinted in a number of Chicken Soup for the Soul collections of inspirational pieces.


The mention of a “Mr. William Grey” and the plot point about the young Marine’s having come to the hospital to inform Mr. Grey that his son had been killed in Iraq are more recent additions to this piece, tacked on by someone other than the original author to make the tale seem more topical and poignant. The original version concluded with the sentence “When I realized that he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son, I knew how much he needed me.” https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/marine-just-stay/

But as I say, I am sure that it is true to life in so many ways. I am sure similar things like this do in fact often happen. Indeed, in a sense, I can say I too experienced something like this. When my dying wife in hospital was losing consciousness and awareness of others, I of course needed to be at her bedside.

Of interest, all the family had gone to see her on Saturday morning, and we even brought Jilly dog with us (the hospital had given us permission to do so). She was more or less aware of us and glad to see us. But a few hours after we left a nurse called me and said I better get back there quick, as she was now beginning to decline fast.

So I raced back to the hospital and spent the night there. All up I sat by her bedside for 22 hours. I told everyone that we must now always have someone there with her 24/7. Over the next four nights my “shifts” were a bit shorter as the boys, her sis and a few others took turns being by her bedside. So while she was now pretty much out of it (partly because of all her medication), I could still be there. I could hold her hand. I could pray for her. I could play music for her.

You might say you are not anything special in the Kingdom, and no one knows anything about you. You will never make it on the 6 o’clock news. A magazine or newspaper article will never be written about you, let alone a book. You will be unnoticed in this life.

But just being there will make a huge difference. Being there for a spouse or a loved one or a child or a neighbour or a church friend, and so on. Indeed, just as I was typing these concluding paragraphs, Jilly came up to me wanting some love and attention. So I stopped typing and gave her some pats. Just being there for her was enough.

As I said on the social media a few days ago: “Nowadays I spend a bunch of my time looking after a dog and a cat (and the cat jumps on my lap as I type this). If that is all I do in my remaining days, that will be enough. But if I can do a bit more for Christ and the Kingdom in the days to come, that will be an added blessing and grace.”

We all do not have to DO great things. Sometimes just being there is sufficient. I am glad all of you are there. If you are like me and can sometimes get a bit discouraged, just remember that God is glad that you are there. And many others are as well – even if you are not aware of them being glad you exist!

Another thing I posted on the social media the other day also ties in here: “‘Therefore encourage one another and build one another up’ (1 Thessalonians 5:11).” It is exactly because we so seldom do encourage and affirm others that they can easily get depressed and want to give up.

So we have two lessons to cling to here: One, just being there is a good thing indeed. And two, letting others know that you are glad they are there is an important part of every believer’s calling.

[1986 words]

4 Replies to “On Simply Being There”

  1. This is probably one of your best postings, Bill. So many times it is easy to get discouraged in today’s world when you see who is being heralded and you feel like you aren’t a difference to anyone. I have told the choirs I have led many times in the past when we are getting ready to present a special program “there may be just a few people attending, but if we touch one, that is our purpose.” Well, I’m not always good at practicing what I “preach.” This helped to remind me. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for two deeply moving accounts, Bill. While I was reading your story, I was reminded of how much people with terminally ill wives, husbands and other family members have to be grateful for when it comes to the wonderful, God-given gifts and expertise of those wonderful people at hospice. Thanks to them, I was able to spend a few more precious weeks or months with my beloved Ernest and be there with him when the curtain finally fell. Thanks be to our Lord and Saviour for the noble, much-cherished works of mercy and compassion that are accomplished daily through hospices throughout the world.

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