October 30, 2013


I walked into the room a few minutes early and noticed her sitting in the back. Tears were streaming down her 18-year-old face. We had met only a month before. We were in the same class at the local community college. Being the oldest in the class, I already felt a bit out of place, but I decided to ask what was wrong. She seemed grateful for my interest and told me the whole story. In short, her boyfriend had broken up with her that morning.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I soon learned that this breakup was just another blow to her already-fragile existence. All I could do was put my arm around her and offer some words of encouragement. I sympathized with her plight, having gone through similar circumstances with my own children while they were growing up.

She asked if I could give her a ride home after class. She lived in a poor neighborhood, and I could tell she was a little embarrassed about it. On the way she shared with me something of her troubled home life. She had an abusive and alcoholic mother. There was almost no relationship with her father. And a younger sister had been placed in a state program for drug addiction. My new friend wanted to “make something of herself,” but it was difficult to accomplish that because of the challenges she was facing. I felt helpless. What could I do? 31 1 7 2

I drove her home a number of times during the next few weeks. We would park in front of her apartment and talk. She would share her problems, and I would listen and try to say something comforting. A couple times I asked if I could say a prayer for her. She always agreed.

We’ve been out of touch since the semester ended and I moved away—some time ago now—but I still think of her. Did I make a difference in her life? I don’t know. But I do know that I wanted to make a difference. It would have been easier if she had just needed food or clothes or a ride somewhere. I could have handled those issues with no problem. But what continues to haunt my thoughts is that she might have actually needed me. Ah! There’s the rub. Not just to give things, but to actually give me.

Although food and clothes and shelter are certainly essential to our survival, so are companionship and kind words. We are all prisoners of need stumbling down the road of life. And much of the time we can help others and be an answer to their prayers if we just simply do what’s right—provide food for the hungry, water for the thirsty, shelter for the homeless, and hope for the brokenhearted. There’s no mystery here.

When it comes to our personal lives, we often can be the answer to our own prayers. Ellen White writes, “If we would refresh others, we must ourselves drink of the Fountain that never becomes dry. . . . If we would have spiritual life and energy, we must commune with God. We can speak to Him of our real wants; and our earnest petitions will show that we realize our needs, and will do what we can to answer our own prayers.”* 

Christ is life, and hope, and help—but He also sends us out to answer the prayers of the needy, whoever they may be. My classmate needed hope. She needed to know that someone believed in her. She needed to know that prayers are answered. 

And I need to know that her prayer was one that maybe even I have answered.

 * Ellen G. White, in Review and Herald, Apr. 22, 1884.