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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Written by William A. Kolb

Sunday, October 10

Thus says the LORD of hosts: …show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother.
—Zechariah 7:8-10

In the year 1950, my mother, at age 44, decided to leave New York City and start her life anew. She was going to drive to Miami Beach, Florida, and settle there. Having just divorced my adoptive father, she felt I needed some male influence in my life, and so enrolled me at the Mt. Hermon School for boys near Greenfield, Massachusetts.

I was one of only two Jewish children at the school. At thirteen, I was not good at making friends or at playing sports. I did my solitary chores (cleaning classrooms and “latrines”) and studied pretty hard. I enjoyed the football games, when the girls from our sister school, Northfield, would come over on the bus. I tried my hand at the bass drum and cymbals in the band, but that didn’t work out.

Then I got into a fight with Arthur, who lived upstairs from me in Cottage Two. He beat me up pretty badly. I was ashamed and wanted to go home. One night, depressed and miserable, at the bottom of a dark pit, I went over to Cottage One, where our Bible teacher, Reverend Judson Stent, was “House Father.” I wearily climbed the stairs and knocked on his door.

To this day I have no idea what I said. I only know that the door opened, Mr. Stent welcomed me in, and then he listened to me for probably an hour. I poured it out, I guess, and he listened. 

I have believed ever since that listening with great concentration to someone who really needs to talk is one of the greatest gifts we can ever make to anyone. Not everyone is able to listen; it is a gift from God. Most people have nobody they can really talk to.

Mr. Stent made a profound difference in my life. I went on to be baptized and later became an Episcopal priest. I have not done headline-making things with my ministry, but I have learned to listen deeply to people who are in pain and need to talk, and I don't think there is a more important calling in this life.

Lord, be with those who are lonely, sick or dying, and give us eyes to recognize their need and a heart to listen. Amen.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2006.