The blue heron stood perfectly still in the warm morning sun on the white sandy beach in Destin, Florida. Six feet from a fishing pole and a bucket of live bait, the two-foot tall skinny bird moved not a muscle, his head held high. The fisherman in a beige fishing cap waded barefoot into the white foamy waves. He cast his line, and the blue heron slowly lifted his pencil thin legs, moving forward ever so precisely, ever so carefully. As soon as the fisherman gazed backward the bird straightened his slender body. When he faced forward again, the heron tentatively stepped with his long wiry feet positioning himself even closer to his goal. The moment the man glanced at the pretty light blue creature this finely feathered piece of the shore’s landscape assumed his statuesque pose. Over and over he and the man in the beige cap repeated the action.
“He thinks he’s a stealth bird that we can’t see as long as he isn’t doing anything,” I told my husband. Listening to the roar of the tide beside me, watching the power of the water washing ashore I understood how he might assume that. Then, I asked myself, “When I’m in a sea of people, is my belief in God visible or invisible? Do I stand still, doing nothing with my faith?” I hoped not because Matthew 5: 16, tells us “…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
Most people have witnessed Christians doing good works for years. They listen to the troubles of others. They take food when folks are ill. They visit the sick in hospitals. But I think Christianity shines brightest when a person comes to the aid of another even though it’s not convenient, and they don’t have the time, that intangible asset valued almost as much as the commodity of oil in this century. I know such a person, a college adjunct who rotates from one school to another. One day one of her students asked her for special assistance, explaining that she soon would be deployed to Iraq. The instructor already knew the girl needed to pass the last test in the class to receive full credit for the course. She also knew if she took extra time to assist her she most certainly would be late to her next teaching assignment at another school. And, she taught next door to her boss. The young adjunct said, “Visions of getting fired flashed in my head. I figured at best, I’d be chastised. But I thought of what that student had committed to do for our country, and I saw the need in her face. I couldn’t let her down, so I said, ‘Sure, what do you need to know.’”
Fortunately, when the bell rang at the other school for the adjunct’s class, the students went in the room and shut the door, so the young professor’s boss never knew she arrived late. Recalling the incident I told myself in the future I would try to bring this type unselfish aid, comfort or reassurance to those in need.
Then, I turned my attention back to the heron to see that he finally stood right beside the bucket. When the fisherman cast his line again, the spindly bird lowered his long elastic neck creating several folds in it until his beak touched the top of the container. Suddenly, the fisherman swung around and clapped his hands loudly, shooing away the hungry heron. I was disappointed. I thought he could have given the bird at least one fish for his effort.