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His Name is Danny
We render judgment and walk away. Instead, God's heart is for us to walk out His love, even toward the unlovely.

Have you ever walked down the street and felt uncomfortable when you saw a stranger coming toward you? You're not sure whether to look at them, to say "Hi" or to just ignore them as they pass. Perhaps this stranger is dressed oddly and has a distinct odour of tobacco. His hair is long, tied in a ponytail, and his beard is long, unkempt and still has remnants of yesterday's lunch lodged in the depths of the scraggles. This may even cause you to cross the street.

I received a phone call from Danny's wife. Danny was in intensive care at the hospital.

I've just described my friend. His name is Danny.

Danny didn't always look like this. As a matter of fact, the opposite was true: He was rather obsessive about his looks and kept himself extremely well-groomed. He ran a successful business in commercial photography, graphics and portraits. His ability to capture emotion and character was uncanny. He had a lovely home, a beautiful wife and two children.

Then one day it all changed.

I received a phone call from Danny's wife. Danny was in intensive care at the hospital. He had a stroke. They weren't sure if he would recover. They weren't sure of anything just yet. It seemed as if Danny's life was hanging by a thread. Days later he was out of intensive care but still unable to communicate. I gathered my strength and went to see him.

Unprepared, I came into his room. He held a newspaper in one hand and seemed to be staring blankly at the pages. I sat by his bed. He lowered the paper and looked right at me. I could feel it. I held his hand, the hand that couldn't move. I saw a tear roll down his cheek.

My next visit was a pleasant surprise. He was in a guest room filled with family, friends and business associates. I remember seeing him sitting quietly in a wheelchair with a word board game in front of him. The room was abuzz with conversation and well-wishers. I was happy that he had so much support.

But with each visit I made, the room seemed quieter and quieter until eventually Danny sat alone in this room with the game.

Once he came home I made a visit. His wife had made him soup and then placed a pile of pills on the table. Each one was put in his mouth. He would swallow, take a drink from a straw, and receive another pill after pill after pill; pills that would sustain his life. Still unable to speak, I would wipe his mouth and he would look at me, right at me.

Little by little he regained some strength. He was soon able to walk again. He would struggle with words but he began to communicate. It appeared as if things would soon be okay.

Then one day I received a visit from his wife. She sat on the couch in front of me, put her face in her hands and sobbed. "I'm leaving Danny," she said.

This began a whole new life for Danny. Things never really got better for Danny in the sense of physical recovery. Though he can drive now and he can talk well, he still suffers paralysis on one side, which renders his hand useless. He lost his wife, his business and his life as he knew it. Feeling alone with not much to care about, he turned to cigarettes and occasional drugs.

I would love for this story to end happily ever after, with God delivering Danny, but it doesn't, not in that sense.

Danny did find the saving grace of Jesus when he was a young man. And Danny was more a "religious" believer [acknowledge God and went to church occasionally] than an "evangelical" believer [one who has a personal relationship with God], but he knew who his Saviour was. But with the stroke, most of that was erased from his memory.

My children have seen and experienced unconditional love first-hand.

What was I to do now with a friend like this? What does God call us to do with a friend like this?

Danny now comes to our house for holidays. He comes over early and spends half of the time out on the patio smoking. He snaps photos of me cooking the turkey and shoots a traditional shot of everyone around the table. He doesn't always look real good or smell real good, but he is welcome here. I make a chocolate cake and a pan of lasagne for his birthday. My husband has gone to Danny's and raked his leaves and helped with numerous other chores. We have become a family for him. My children have seen and experienced unconditional love first-hand.

This last Christmas, as we settled at the table to eat, Danny raised his glass and said, "To my wonderful friends, the perfect family … Lyle and Connie." I was too choked up to say anything, and I think something silly stumbled out of my mouth. I was honoured and a little embarrassed.

Later, after my guests had left, and I was relaxing and reminiscing over the day, I said to myself, No, Danny, not a perfect family: a perfect God.

I'm not sure what the "whole" purpose of having Danny in our lives is, but I do know that we are to love Danny, and we do.

Is there a Danny in your life?

Connie Yates is a wife and homeschooling mother of three in Omaha Nebraska and has worked out of her home as a graphic artist for the past seven years.

Originally published in Fellowship Focus, January/February 2004.

 

 
 
 
 

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