Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Least of These

A few months ago, our family went on vacation to three national parks: Zion, Grand Canyon, and Bryce Canyon. I had never been to Bryce Canyon and none of our children had visited any these three parks. We enjoyed our trip and had the opportunity of interacting with a number of foreign tourists.

During the tourist season (from the beginning of April through the latter part of October), a shuttle system operates in Zion NP “to eliminate traffic and parking problems, protect vegetation, and restore tranquility to Zion Canyon.”

On one of our shuttle rides, I ended up seated directly behind the bus driver with some of the other family members to my right. We sat on a bench that faced a similar bench on the other side of the bus. Across from me sat a fellow that came across as the embodiment of a stereotypical good ol’ southern boy. His drawl, body shape, manner of grooming, and dress all lent to this image.

As the bus started to move, this southern fellow leaned forward and engaged the bus driver in conversation. He talked about how he was traveling around the west and sleeping in the back of his pickup truck. An older couple ended up seated next to this man at the next stop.

Throughout the remainder of the trip, our southern traveling companion went into great detail about his 1988 Toyota pickup truck, his truck’s shell (complete with details of its purchase and installation), his camping setup in the bed of the truck, and various ailments that had necessitated better padding to sleep on.

The bus driver was very kind and accommodating. The rest of us on the two facing benches sat quietly; being careful to avoid looking directly at the man for fear that we would be forced to become active members of his captive audience instead of just playing a passive role.

It was with great relief that I exited the shuttle at our destination. Given that this was an end terminal, almost all riders left the shuttle. We gathered our brood at a large 3D model of the canyon that was placed outside of a service building.

As we looked at the model and noted some of the places we had visited or seen that day, we saw the older couple that had sat across from us approaching in the stream of people passing by. The gentleman stopped and with a twinkle in his eye asked, “Do you now know more about 1988 Toyota pickup trucks than you ever wanted to know?” As we turned toward him, he feigned embarrassment and asked, “You’re not friends of Bubba’s, are you?” We all had a good laugh.

A few minutes later as we drove toward the park entrance, I made some kind of disparaging remark about “Bubba.” My wife didn’t take up my mirthful attitude. Instead, she said that she thought that the bus driver had been very kind. “Bubba,” she said, seemed like a very lonely man. By giving him a willing audience for a few minutes, the bus driver likely helped the man’s day along.

Duly admonished, I thought of the Savior’s teaching in Matthew 25:31-46. At the Judgment, He will send those on His left hand away because they failed to appropriately help Him. They will ask (v44), “Lord, when saw we thee … a stranger … and did not minister unto thee?” He will answer (v45), “Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.”

I realized that I had failed to render to “one of the least of these” aid that I could easily have given — in this case, a simple human kindness of caring concern that likely would have endured only for a short bus ride.

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