I began reading Mitch Albom’s latest book, Have a Little Faith, yesterday. In it, Mitch recollects two stories, one about his own journey together with his childhood rabbi just years before the rabbi died. The second is about an African American from Brooklyn who also is searching for faith after running into trouble with the law. In the vignettes describing his conversations with the Rabbi, Mitch quotes the following story, which I feel sums up the experience of being clergy.
Do you ever get a call from someone who isn’t a member of your congregation?
“Certainly. In fact, two weeks ago, I got a call from the hospital. The person said, ‘A dying woman has requested a rabbi.’ So I went.”
“When I got there, I saw a man sitting in a chair beside a woman who was gasping for breath. ‘Who are you?’ he said. ‘Why are you here?'”
“‘I got a call,’ I said. ‘They told me someone is dying and wants to speak to me.'”
“He got angry. ‘Take a look at her,’ he said. ‘Can she talk? I didn’t call you. Who Called You?‘”
“I had no answer. So I let him rant. After a while, when he cooled down, he asked, ‘Are you married?’ I said yes. He said, ‘Do you love your wife?’ ‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Would you want to see her die?’ ‘Not so long as there was hope for her to live,’ I said.”
“We spoke for about an hour. At the end I said, ‘Do you mind if I recite a prayer for your wife?’ He said he would appreciate it. So I did.”
And then? I asked.
“And then I left.”
I shook my head. He spent an hour talking to a stranger? I tried to remember the last time I’d done that. Or if I’d ever done that.
Did you ever find out who called you? I asked.
“Well, not officially. But, on my way out, I saw a nurse who I remembered from other visits. She was a devout Christian. When I saw her, our eyes met, and even though she didn’t say anything, I knew it was her.”
Wait. A Christian woman called for a Jewish rabbi?
“She saw a man suffering. She didn’t want him to be alone.”
She had a lot of guts.
“Yes,” he said. “And a lot of love.” (p. 65-66)
I think I will let this vignette speak for itself.