I believe “proper pride” is a special invitation. It means, “to multiply in the lives of others those talents one receives from God.” I first heard this phrase at a ServiceMaster Corporation award ceremony. Since then I have shared the following story to help clarify what it means to recognize “proper pride.”
I was attending night school at Wayne State University in Detroit where one evening I stopped at a church before going to class. It was days before Christmas and the last night of final exams.
As I was praying quietly in the chapel I sensed someone looking at me. Turning around I discovered an older man standing twenty feet away. Feeling uneasy, I shifted my briefcase to the inside of the pew. “Is there anything I can help you with?” I asked. “Perhaps you can.” he responded. “You see I just drove into town with my wife and our new born son and we have no place to go.”
Recognizing a scam in progress, I suggested that he go next door to the rectory where the parish priest could offer assistance. “Thanks for your help.” he said. And with that I turned back toward the altar.
Because I was unsettled with the unusual encounter, I looked over my shoulder to make sure my visitor didn’t have other intentions. The only problem was: HE WAS GONE! Startled, I jumped up and frantically searched to see if he was hiding behind a pillar. I checked the side door. It was locked. I looked behind other pews. He wasn’t there. I ran outside to find his car, wife, and son, but to no avail. He had disappeared.
As I hurried to class I replayed the episode over and over. During my exam I paused and said a prayer. “Lord, if that was You in any way, please give me a sign.”
After class six of us were heading to our cars when a homeless man walked past the others, stood in front of me and said, “Have you got some change for a warm cup of coffee? But don’t touch my unclean hands, just throw your coins in the gutter.”
Twenty years later a man came up to me and said that he recently attended one of my retreats when I told this story. The gentleman went on to say that because I shared how my pride got in the way of doing what was right, he made a conscious decision to help a stranger who was not drunk as a crowd of people suspected, but was having a diabetic attack.
It was gratifying to know that where my personal pride once stood in the way of helping a stranger, my proper pride indirectly saved a stranger’s life.
As I look back, I believe that God gave me the gift of “proper pride” to help answer the question all of us will be asked: “But when did I see you Lord?”
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