Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Faith Works 03-05-05
By Jeff Gill

One of my little personal treasures is a carefully laminated newspaper photograph of Jim Short going in to vote. His wife, Virginia, is holding his arm, and a neighbor is holding the door of their local school where the polling place was set up.
Jim died not very long after this picture was taken, with the effects of Parkinson’s disease finally overwhelming his ability to breath. He knew he was likely to not see those he voted for sworn in, let alone serve out their terms, but this veteran of World War II knew where his place and duty lay, and his family and friends were going to help him fulfill his calling.
I think of Jim when I watch Pope John Paul II on television, a man I’ve never met but whose service, like Jim’s in the Marine Corps, has touched my life and for the better. My freedom and confidence in the world my family lives in is due to the steadfastness and faithfulness of those who have stood against Nazism and Communism.
And I laugh, and think of Jim again when I hear people ask, “will the Pope step down?” The former archbishop of Krakow has often said “Jesus did not step down from the cross” in answer to that question, a response which says volumes to those of us who have known individuals who put the greater good over personal comfort. Whether in combat, in ministry, or simply in getting out of their home for one of the last times to cast a vote for candidates they respected, there are heroes all around us, and John Paul, bishop of Rome, knows he represents many such lesser known folk even as he is also “the vicar of Christ.”
Parkinson’s is a disease, and like breathing, it will lead to death if given enough time. It does not carry away brain cells, or rewire your thoughts, but it does mask the emotions you still feel just as strongly behind a frozen set of facial muscles. The mask, the tremors, and the slow debilitation of walking and working leads far too many to assume it has mental effects. (Ask a blind person how tired they get of people talking slowly and too loudly to them!)
Recently, two movies won Academy Awards for best film and best foreign language film that affirm what some call the “right to die,” but many others would call the “right to assisted suicide.” One disability rights activist said the next morning after the Oscars: “Good thing there wasn’t an animated feature about putting us out of everyone else’s misery, or it would have been a clean sweep.”
I think the Pope would agree. He is aware and active and ready to serve, whether for a month or a year or possibly another decade. Whose misery is he needing to sooth: his own, or that of those who see a once vital man weighed down by illness and see possibilities for themselves they’d rather not confront?
May God bless John Paul for his faithful example before the world, and in another of the marvels of this modern age, if you’d like to say thank you this Lent, just drop “Il Papa” an e-mail through
He can’t type anymore, but he can hear a “thank you” as well as any of us. Maybe even better.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio. You can e-mail him at a less impressive address,

No comments:

Post a Comment