You are walking in a mall, or on a street, and you notice a person (likely a tourist) who has that panicked look of “where am I going?” She is completely lost and doesn’t know which way to turn. What would you do? You could literally change the course of this person’s day with a few kind words and some assistance.
In the story of Joseph (Genesis, Chapter 37) we read the interesting incident in which Jacob sends his son Joseph to find his brothers. Joseph sets out and he gets lost. Along comes a nameless man who finds him meandering aimlessly around in a field, and he asks Joseph, “What are you looking for?” Joseph tells him that he is searching for his brothers and to paraphrase the man’s response, he says, “They went that-a-way.” We never hear of this man again. Yet if Joseph had never met him, he never would have found his brothers. He never would have been sold into slavery. The family would not have followed him into Egypt. There would have been no Exodus. The history of the world would have been so different! Could that man have known how his chance encounter changed history? Do we ever know the consequences of the little acts of thoughtfulness we perform?
And so it is worth asking, “Who is that man?” Without doubt the Bible intentionally leaves the man’s name out. This small act of kindness is the same small act that I hope any one of us might choose to perform in similar circumstances. We hold a door open for a person entering a store behind us. We offer a homeless person your leftovers bag from the restaurant. You cook a meal or do a load of laundry for a friend who is going through a difficult time. You walk by a car with an expired parking meter, and put money in it. You give a lost tourist directions.
The nameless person in the Bible offers a most important lesson. All of our actions will bear consequences. Each of us has the power to determine the course of history. We can change the course of a person’s life with a simple act. That nameless man could just be you!