In today’s reading, while Paul preaches late into the night, a young man named Eutychus succumbs to sleep and falls three floors to his death. “But Paul went down, and bending over him took him in his arms, and said, ‘Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.’” (v.10)
Eutychus’s life would have ended if Paul had ignored the commotion. Eutychus would have stayed dead if Paul hadn’t taken the time to stop, go down 3 stories, and hug the lifeless body of a person he did not know. Or, Paul simply could have decided to say a prayer for the unfortunate young man and use the incident as an example in his preaching. But he didn’t. Instead, Paul paused and acted. Paul’s action breathed new life not only into Eutychus but into every individual present and listening that night.
Thirty years ago, while processing claims for the Organization of American States, I met a man named Dr. Laravide. I don’t remember his job title or even his first name, but I do remember that Dr. Laravide was very gentle, very charming, and always smiling. He seemed to be happy. So it was a great shock to all of us that, one evening, he ended his own life. For reasons unknown to us, he succumbed, not to sleep, but to despair. Like Eutychus, no one saw him “fall” until it was too late. Unlike Eutychus, no one was there to breathe life into him.
If the person standing next to Eutychus had noticed him nodding off, maybe he could have gently nudged him awake, or maybe he could have caught him as he started to fall. If those closest to Dr. Laravide had seen the signs of growing despair within him, maybe they could have lend an ear, spoken encouraging words, offered friendship. But it simply isn’t possible to know or to see when someone starts to fall, is it?
Heavenly Father, through your grace, may we always take the time to offer a friendly smile, a moment of listening, or a word of encouragement, especially to those closest to us. Sometimes that’s all a person needs to feel that “…his life is in him.” Amen.