I Will Help You
Shared by Stephen
“If you want to be like me I will help you, knowing that we are alike. If you want to be different, I will wait until you change your mind.” (From Text Chapter 8)
The first time I read those words from Jesus, they gave me hope, because they just came through as true. Thinking of them now brings tears to my eyes—an expression of how deeply I feel the meaning in those words, and how grateful I am that it is possible to learn to be like Jesus; how grateful I am to learn that the real reason I am in this world is to extend love and forgiveness as he did.
Before I became a student of A Course in Miracles, and found a role model in Jesus, I was very fortunate to find a role model in my friend John. Reflecting back on our relationship, I recognize that he was demonstrating for me the principles I’ve since learned through my work with the Course, even though he was not a Course student himself.
I met John in the 1980s, when I was working as a doctor at a hospital rehabilitation center for folks with drug or alcohol addictions. John was a counselor there. And he was a recovering alcoholic. I worked at the center for 15 years before taking an early retirement from my medical career and finding a new “calling” as a student of A Course in Miracles.
I felt a very strong pull to go to work at the rehab center, but I was scared. I had never gotten any training in how to treat people addicted to drugs or alcohol. I responded to the pull because it was so strong, but I was afraid. Not that I would admit that. In fact, at first, I walked in there with such a puffed up ego that it was lucky for me to get through the front door! I wasn’t aware of that at the time, but a colleague at the center later told me that I gave the impression that I thought I was better than everybody else.
Thankfully, I’ve changed. And John helped me.
John was a religious man—a member of the Brothers of Holy Cross, not as a teacher, but as a cook. He was a humble guy. But he got hooked on drinking, and through the AA program, he found his way to recovery. That was his way to Jesus and to God.
John and I would see patients, the two of us together. Because one of the first things I learned at the center was that, because I didn’t know anything about the disease or what the treatment was, if I saw a patient by myself, I was completely in the dark about how to help. A patient could easily manipulate me when I tried to help on my own. But it’s a lot more difficult to manipulate two people.
The thing is, as I worked with John early on, I’d be looking at patients and I’d be judging the hell out of them, thinking: “These bums. These no good so-and-so’s.” But John was very peaceful with them. He was just quiet. And over time, I said to myself, “This man has something that I want. I don’t know what the word is. But I want it.”
Not only that, I sensed that in spite of the fact that I walked into that hospital with a puffed up ego, I felt no judgment from him. I used to talk to him about any difficulties I was going through. He was someone I could go to—a confidant. I remember one time I talked to him about our youngest daughter, who was a teenager at the time. She was a very smart kid, but she was doing troublesome things. John just listened, quietly. And when I finished talking he said, “Just let her know you love her.” That was a long time ago. But remembering it now fills my heart with gratitude—for his quiet ways, for our friendship. And for his example.
I wanted to be like him. I know I got a gift from him—one that helped me set aside the judgments that got in the way of my being truly helpful. I remember one time at the hospital when I was with a patient listening to her medical history, taking my time in the process and letting her know I cared, that I was interested in everything she shared with me. It was in a room with three other patients, and as I was leaving, one of the other patients in the room—the woman in the bed closest to the door—asked me, “Are you an alcoholic?” I told her that no, I’m not. And she said something that touched me deeply: “Well, you’re nice enough to be one.”
Eventually, John and I became like brothers. He showed me the way. He demonstrated for me the words I came across years later in the Course (from Text Chapter 16) about the importance of getting out of the way and letting the Holy Spirit work through me—words that I now draw on nearly every day for inspiration and guidance:
“Step gently aside, and let healing be done for you. Keep but one thought in mind and do not lose sight of it, however tempted you may be to judge any situation, and to determine your response by judging it. Focus your mind only on this: I am not alone, and I would not intrude the past upon my Guest. I have invited Him, and He is here. I need do nothing except not to interfere.”
The outstanding thing about John, always, was that he was peaceful. He could enter a room where there was chaos and it would immediately quiet down. Not through his words, but just his quiet presence. I’m not sure he knew he was having that effect. But everyone around him recognized it.
Years after we worked together at the center, John ended up contracting a virus that left him paralyzed. His body didn’t work anymore. He couldn’t hold a fork and a knife and used Velcro to hook the utensils to him so he could feed himself. But there was nothing wrong with his mind. And so he would continue to go out and facilitate rehabilitation counseling sessions, as he always had, doing what he had always done so effectively by just sitting, listening, and not judging.
While John was in South Bend, Indiana, living in a nursing home for the Holy Cross brothers, I talked to him on the phone a lot. And there were two times when I got on a plane and went out to visit him. John and I didn’t do much while I was there. We didn’t talk about the past. We didn’t talk about his illness. The one thing that I remember was that, while I was with him, I was happy.
I remember he had a little bird, and the bird, a little cockatiel, landed on me and pooped on me. John said, “That means he loves you.”
At the end of my second visit, John came to the door with me to say good bye. He was in his power wheelchair, because he couldn’t ambulate. He couldn’t do it. But his mind was very sharp. And as I was leaving, he looked up at me and said, “Thanks for pulling me out of my depression.”
All the way home on the plane, I tried to process his words. And I think that was one of the first times I became aware that things were being done through me, not by me. I think that was my way, with the help of Jesus, to return what John gave me, way back, when he didn’t judge me for walking around like I was better than others—or, as he once put it, but fondly, for walking around “like a Prussian general.”
He wasn’t a Course guy, but he got it. He was close to Jesus. And he loved me.
I loved him too. Still do.