There's a certain man we meet in John 5 whose story is not unlike so many of our own. And when we read it, it's often easy to miss the tale of broken community because it is, after all, a story of yet another miracle.
The man is found by the pool of Siloam. Rumor has it that when the waters of the pool are stirred up, whoever is first to touch those waters will be healed of his infirmity, whatever that may be. The man we meet is known for having been present at the waters for so many years. For years, persons have been walking by, noticing him, and stepping into the waters for themselves before he can even dream of healing. For years, persons have been walking by the waters, recounting the wive's tale, recognizing the man who is still so close...and yet so far...and continuing to walk by the waters. For years, persons have known this man is one moment of tenderness away from his healing.
And no one has bothered to give it to him.
You see, this man is incapable of getting himself into the pool. He's just not able. His body will not let him move those last few inches into the healing waters. He's been here for many years, and if he cannot move a few inches, we can assume he has never moved much at all. We're not sure how he got here in the first place, what he had to do, who he had to pay, what he had to trade to get himself to this pool but he likely put everything on the line to be here. To be somewhere near hope. To at least be able to see the waters stirring and to know that healing is, at the very least, possible. He knows he's one tender moment away from touching those waters. At this point, he'd even take one rude shove, if that's what would get him there.
And no one, it seems, will even give him that.
No one will even accidentally trip over him and move him those last few inches in their own attempt to get to the pool. No one has grown weary enough of his constant presence and perhaps constant begging to just shove him already and get it over with. No one has gotten tired of seeing his face so much that they would just knock him a little to the left and end it all. No one loves him enough to heal him, but neither does anyone hate him enough. He's neither a friend nor an enemy. He's simply...a man.
He's a man so alone in this world that by now, the loneliness eats at him more than the infirmity. He used to be simply a broken man; now, he's a rejected one, as well. The only thing that keeps him going is that he's so close to healing that he can smell it in the air. The right breeze kicks up, and the cleansing smell of the water wafts over to him. He watches the water stir and he knows that the angel continues to visit, that something holy is happening almost within his reach. That's enough to hold on, at least for a little while longer.
But a little while has turned into a long while has turned into years and he's no closer today than the moment he first came to Siloam. It's a heartbreaking story.
And one that continues to happen all around us. There are persons right now in our midst who are so close to hope they can taste it. There are persons who live just inches away from the fullness of all they could be, and it only takes one tender moment to move them just enough. It only takes one lousy minute of our time to give them the affirmation, the encouragement, the assistance, the love that they need to completely change their lives. To become more of who they are. To be able to be themselves. To be whole.
At this point, most of us just keep walking by. We let them live in this place, this oh-so-close place and think to ourselves, "Gosh, that's tragic. She's been stuck there for the longest time." What we don't realize is that it is we, and not her, who have the ability to get that person unstuck. It's we who have to make the next move because, for whatever reason, that person cannot make it for themselves. They need us.
They need us to stop walking by and shaking our heads. They need us to stop being out in this world for ourselves. They need us to stop seeing so busy that we see but no longer see. They need us to stop being so sad for them and start being so compassionate. They need us to stop leaving them and start loving them.
This world is full of people who need us to put them in the pool.
Are we doing that? Are you doing that? Is there someone in your life right now who needs that one good word that's going to take her from this place to the next? Is there someone in your life right now who needs five minutes of your time so that he can start to do a new thing? Is there someone in your life right now whose story is a heartbreaking tale of being so close and yet so far, who lives thirsting on hope and dies fasting? Is there someone right now who needs you to put them in the pool?
What's stopping you?