Sharper Focus – “Gatorade and cookies”
by Linda Manhardt, Major
On the way to a much needed staff retreat in the Philippines, I was talking with the other officers in the car. Because my legs are longer than the average Filipino, and since the rear seats offer little legroom, I sit in the front, so I was facing backward as we drove.
As we came to the outskirts of a small town area or barangay, I saw what appeared to be a body on the side of the road. Fearing that the staff wouldn’t take me seriously, I said, “I think I just saw a dead person.” That got their immediate attention! I said I wasn’t sure, but I really did think it was a body on the side of the road. I asked the captain who was driving to turn around so we could check it out. We did, and, yes, it was a person.
We got back into the car to notify the authorities and were able to find two women involved in the local government. When we came back to the spot with them, several children surrounded the person. The women began to poke and prod him and after several minutes, he moved. He had been asleep, curled up in a tight ball on the side of the busy highway. He was a young man with wild hair, perhaps 20 years old, and covered with filth. We found that he could not speak or hear and that his legs were twisted and useless. There was no way to learn his name or his story. All we could do was to give him our Gatorade and cookies.
As we returned the women to the town, I overheard one of them mention to the officers that Americans have a high regard for human life. I felt it was important to talk to them. I told them that this dirty, helpless person who seemed to have no hope in the world is very important to God. I told them that God loved him just as he loves each of us. I told them that it would make God very happy if they took care of him, and I saw tears in their eyes as they promised that they would bathe and feed him, and try to find him a place to stay. They said that they would make a report to social services and that he would be followed up on. It was difficult to leave him in their care, but we had no other option.
The next day on the way home from our retreat, we found one of the women. She said that the man was being cared for. Further down the road, we found him—still filthy and skinny, but alive, and surrounded by empty food containers.
This was a couple of weeks ago. I think of him often and I pray for this person without a name. I wonder if he is hungry—if he is clean—if he is alive.
I do not believe it is merely a Western or American characteristic to place value on human life. It is how Jesus lived. It is how he expects us to live. He wants us to do what we can, when we can—even if sometimes it is only Gatorade and cookies. If we can generate compassion in others, then what is sometimes a very ugly world begins to have hope.
I saw the tears in their eyes.
They got it.
I have hope.