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Gary Horton: We’re sewn and stitched together

Full Speed to Port!

Posted: March 24, 2009 6:34 p.m.
Updated: March 25, 2009 4:55 a.m.
It's Lent, and our congregation is collectively reciting the Nicene Creed. Without warning, four pews forward, he collapsed. From standing tall with voice strong, he buckled. His wife caught his fall, guiding him to a supine position on the pew. I, and others rushed forward to aid.

"Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary..."

"Call 911!"

She looked up at us, past us and through time - and held her beloved husband tightly close. "Call 911," she pleaded.

Intense love facing unexpected dread. Her husband and soul mate of decades lay motionless, ashen. This had happened too fast, without warning. Just two or three seconds - and everything had changed.

"He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead..."

Precious seconds tick by. Then, as quickly as he fell, he startled and sat up. More embarrassed than concerned, he waved to us he was OK, no problem. Always strong in faith and deed, he stoically rejoined the reading.

He was all right, he protested to his wife. But she wasn't taking chances, neither was a concerned congregation. We assisted him to the lobby for care. Moments later, I looked back and was amazed to see Fire Department medics already administering aid. How could they have arrived so quickly? Just short minutes from first need, he was already surrounded by emergency professionals.

This man is our congregation's stalwart pillar. He has given huge portions of his life in service here and in distant locales. He counsels inmates in county jails. He builds hospitals in Tanzania. He is dedicated to the betterment of others, especially those most in need. Yet instantly, roles were unexpectedly upended and reversed and he became the receiver in need.

A humble man, he knew when to accept help. At the conclusion of our service, I noticed the emergency medics running heart monitors and IV's - amazingly efficient care response.

Thankfully, our pillar is now fully recovered. We're relieved, yet thoroughly reminded how immediately precious our lives and loved ones are. We're reschooled how closely we're sewn together in our journey of life. From congregation drawing close, to fire department rushing life-saving aid, we're quilted together and born to serve one another.

The event reminds how quickly roles and fortune reverse. One moment we're drivers singing with the radio, and the next we're accident victims. We're dedicated employees one day and pink-slip recipients the next. Our retirement savings provide us comfort, but then, like WaMu, it vanishes. Babies are born while loved ones suddenly pass.

Fast and slow, change always happens. Expected and unexpected, rolls reverse, fortunes shift - leaving us reaching to others when we've so long before been self-sufficient.

A good measure of a church is how much it's "there" for congregants and community. The measure of a community is how much it too is "there" for its citizens. I was humbled Sunday to witness our common commitment on both counts. God bless people who love. God bless our local Fire Department and 911 responders.

A few days prior to this event I received an unexpected letter from our Pastor Dan. Being self-reliant, I first blew it off as superfluous, unnecessary.

"Dear Gary, Carrie, Jonathan, Christopher and Katie,"

"It is my joy to be your pastor. I consider it one of my most sacred responsibilities to pray personally for those people the Lord has entrusted to the care of this congregation. Each week, I pray for various individuals and families within our congregation. This week, I will be praying specifically for you.

I would invite you to call me... with any specific needs that I can be lifting to God on your behalf."

"Not needed," was my immediate impulse. That Sunday, bumping into the pastor after the emergency, I quipped that, "We have a home and we're healthy. Perhaps his kind prayers would be better spent on those with obviously more urgent problems."

This morning I've changed my mind. My church pillar and mentor instantly went from standing strong to collapsed unconscious in his wife's arms, with life in apparent suspense. Lesson learned.

We are not independent. We are not strong, alone by ourselves. I am not an island, and I deceive myself if I think I am. And neither are you.

Pastor Dan, I've changed my mind. I accept your kind invitation.

Pray for my son Christopher who's getting married in New York. Pray for Katie who's seeking work in Seattle. Pray for Jon, who teaches workplace safety. Pray for Carrie and me so our company can continue employing staff during very challenging times.

Pray thanks for our community that we care for each other. Pray thanks for our schools and teachers and park staff, and our doctors, nurses, police and homeless shelter workers - that we, together, can be attuned and responsive to those needing us most.

Pray for us to comprehend that while we so often feel strong, life's roles quickly change. The strong do become weak, and the weak, strong. We're sewn together more closely than we acknowledge.

Especially pray thanks that our stalwart mentor is recovered and doing well.

Gary Horton lives in Valencia. "Full Speed to Port" appears Wednesdays in The Signal. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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