Don't misunderstand me. I have encountered numerous people in my life exhibiting selfless behavior, with my mother being high on that list. And I have witnessed selflessness in random situations in life, like in the 2013 Boston Marathon when many runners continued past the finish line and to the hospital to donate blood for those impacted by the bombings. In fact, I often comment on how kind and generous the Costa Rican culture is in general, with one of the most common questions heard here being, "¿En que puedo servirle?" which means "How can I serve you?" And it's not just empty words; they mean it.
But let's be honest, we see and experience a lot of selfishness in this world too. Just watch a video of people shopping on Black Friday, tackling people as they fight for the same toy. Or pay attention in traffic as people cut others off, at times traveling illegally to do so. Or just see how often people are "too busy" to help others in need. I believe that selfishness exists because sin exists in this broken world. We tend to think of ourselves first. Many times, I'm as guilty or even more guilty than the next. And this is precisely why I was so moved by the example of selflessness I witnessed this past weekend.
Ángel is Maleku, one of the indigenous tribes in Costa Rica. He pastors a church on the reservation. We spent the weekend with him and his family at their home on the Maleku reservation near San Rafael de Guatuso. We were there for ministry, planning for a missions trip there next year, and passing time with friends.
On Saturday, we visited a number of spots that would be nice for the team to have a chance to see some of the local beauty, which included a trip to a national park and its beautiful light blue river (Río Celeste) and gorgeous waterfall (among other attractions).
I can't share all the selflessness I witnessed from Ángel that day, but allow me to share a few.
We went to the spot where he normally enters the park, but that entrance was recently closed. As we were getting ready to leave, Polly noticed an American trying to talk to a hotel owner to no avail. As it turned out she was looking for the entrance to the park to see the waterfall. I told her that her and her friend could follow us as that's where we were headed. I told Ángel and he took it a step further. He invited them to hike with us as it's easier and more informative with a tour guide, which he essentially is as he knows the trails very well. They did join us and we had a good time making new friends.
Hop on My Back, Part 1
The hike was an hour or so, mostly through pouring rain and with many inclines. At one point, Genevieve's little 4 year old legs couldn't take it any more. I was already carrying Jonah on my back so I couldn't help her. Without hesitation, Ángel got down and offered her to jump on his back.
Hop on My Back, Part 2
Nearing the park entrance after a long hike, we came across some hikers stopped along the path. We learned that a woman had injured her ankle and could not continue on. Her husband asked if we could let the park rangers know. Instead, Ángel once again offered his back to a complete stranger. He carried her until we came across a park ranger on a 4 wheeler.
Do You Need Help?
As we were driving away from the park we encountered a woman with a flat tire on the side of the road. A man had already stopped to help, but inspired by the selflessness I had witnessed, I decided to stop and offer help. Good thing too because the man was struggling due to the terrain. I couldn't move fast enough to help as much as intended because Ángel was that much faster. He came up with the idea to get the car up and retightened the bolts.
Shirt off his Back, Part 1
Notice how Ángel was shirtless in those last couple photos? Well that was because back in the park, his daughter was cold and wet. So he literally gave her the shirt off his back, completing the remainder of the cold, wet hike shirtless.
Shirt off his Back, Part 2
When we arrived back at Ángel's house, he told me to pull in front of the house. I didn't know why until I saw him with the hose and that very same shirt, cleaning all the mud off my car. I helped as much as I could but he was determined. He did help me clean my boots when he saw me rinsing those off too.
These were more than a few selfless acts. These were examples of the way my friend choosing to live his life: selflessly. The way I believe God wants us to live our lives. It's a Christlike mentality. I learned a lot from my friend. Hopefully rather than just being moved internally I can lead a more selfless life too. Not just occasionally offer selfless acts, but truly live a selfless lifestyle.
What does the Bible say?
Mark 12:29-31 (ESV, emphasis mine)
Jesus answered, "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV, emphasis mine)
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Romans 12:9, 10 (ESV)
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.