Our van rolled down the Mississippi highway outside of Hattiesburg in the purple hours of the early morning. Walkman’s, forbidden from youth camp, flew through busted windows. “Oh, God!” our Sunday school teacher shouted again and again.
The van came to a stop upright, on rims. The smell of gasoline scattering us from the van to the median like cockroaches scared of the kitchen light.
Brian Wickham and I were easily the flakiest of the bunch. We were the only two of the thirteen who weren’t honor students, future computer scientists, pilots, engineers and doctors. We were writers and singers in the making. Romantics who philosophied, wrote poetry and pontificated on Voltaire and politics, how to trick cheerleaders into dating us, and Toad The Wet Sprocket.
But we stepped out of that van – ran from that van – different people than we usually were. A switch was flipped in our fifteen year-old brains by all the bouncing around or the sight of our friends’ blood or the realization that we could have been dead – gratitude that none of us were.
Brian and I, the most slackerly, took action. It surprised even us, believe me. We went back into the van and pulled out our friends’ belongings, hid the contraband Walkmans, comforted our buddies and the driver who’d fallen asleep and was sobbing in a pair of soiled pants in the grass alone. We went back to our flighty selves after about an hour, sure – selflessness is exhausting for the immature. But for that hour, we were our best selves.
It’s miraculous sometimes what comes out when life squeezes us.
Putting together this Help Haiti live event has been an incredibly surprising experience so far. People who have no connection to me or Compassion International have offered themselves without limitation. Companies, usually with an eye on the bottom line, have their eye instead on the thousands of Compassion families in need of their assistance. Artists with no relationship with Compassion, from the far reaches of the entertainment industry, have generously donated their time, talent and connections to us.
For a moment we’re our best selves. Wanting nothing in return. Thanks to the squeeze.
Here’s praying – please, God – that we’re never normal again.