Giving and Receiving

The Latest Word from John Ed Mathison

Marvin Byrd is a middle school teacher at Lilburn Middle School in Lilburn, Georgia. He is 51-years-old.

A few years ago a 45-year-old teacher by the name of William Johnson visited the school on a job interview. It was Byrd that gave Johnson a tour of the school. They found out that they both had a lot in common. They were both second career teachers. Both of them had a yearning to help struggling students.

Byrd revealed that the school principal asked Byrd, “Do you want me to hire him?” He said, “Yes.” Byrd became something of a mentor to Johnson. He made every effort to provide him with the things he would need to be successful in teaching. He did an outstanding job.

Will Johnson learned something about Byrd recently when he discovered that Byrd needed a kidney transplant. Byrd had exhausted his list of potential family kidney donors. He had been posting on different organ sharing websites, but no person had stepped forward who was a match.

Byrd went around the world looking for a new kidney. It turned out that his donor was just down the hall in his school – the teacher he had help recommend for hiring.

Johnson was not a good candidate as he was extremely afraid of needles, afraid of surgery, and didn’t like hospitals – but he was needed. He gave Marvin Byrd a new kidney.

Recently Byrd and Johnson left Piedmont Hospital. They were wearing matching transplant T-shirts and they shared a lot of tears together before checking out of their rooms. They were now “new best friends.”

This current example of selfless love and compassion reminds me that oftentimes we go around the world looking for something, then discover it is really right down the hall. Most of our long searches in life end when what we really are looking for is pretty close to our fingertips.

This also reminds me that there are a lot of people around us who need something. Initially Johnson was not even aware of the need that Byrd had. When he discovered the need, he acted on it.

How many people around us today have a tremendous need to know the saving grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the love and compassion that God wants to express through us, and the hope that we can offer to people? Look around. The needs all around us are great. We need to step up to the plate and offer what we have.

I wonder what would have happened if Byrd had not recommended Johnson for the teaching job? What would have happened if he had not been nice and positive and encouraging to a second career teacher? I am in no way suggesting that we do things for others in order to have some future payoff – but the investment that he initially made in the life of Johnson came back to him in a way that literally saved his life.

Maybe there is somebody that has done something extremely good for us that we need to “pay back.” The Bible teaches us that we are able to love only because we have first been loved by God. We need to pay that love back by reaching out to God’s children.

We also need to be organ donors. I have personally seen the results of that wonderful program. There is a huge organ shortage today for both kidneys and for livers.

One day Will Johnson called Marvin Byrd on his cell phone and left him a message saying that he had been tested, his kidney was a match and he would give it to his friend. Byrd said, “I still have that message on my phone. We were all screaming with joy.”

Good news is something we want to keep – and share. What good news and selfless act of love can we show to somebody today who has a tremendous need? We might be scared, and uncomfortable, but we just might need to take the risk of stepping out and donating something precious that we have that can mean the difference in this life and eternity for somebody else.

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