This morning, at 6am, I received the culmination of a blessing I had inadvertantly received a year ago. Let me explain.
As many of you know, I am a social network kind of guy. I have learned to embrace the system of sharing personal thoughts and ideas with the masses. Obviously, at times, this can bring great distress to oneself, or to others who don’t share a particular viewpoint, however, what I’ve noticed is that my tribe of friends don’t necessarily agree with all I share or say, but still appreciate the heart with which I share it. If that makes sense?
A year ago, I was sent a friend request on Facebook from a person claiming to be Pakistani. As many of us know, at least in the West, many online thieves make attempts to trick us out of money and resources by pretending to be something they are not. Many have fell victim. For some odd reason though, I not only accepted this person’s invitation to connect, but I began a dialogue with him via private message. (As an aside, many may remember this happened to me in 2014, when I befriended a man who became a very close friend and even stayed with us for a brief period of time, yet ultimately took his life the following year. Even under constant mental stress, he was able to share his story with me and it impacts me to this day. I was, and am still, humbled.)
To continue, every once in a while, Danish would reach out to me to find out where I lived, or what I did for a living. I would cautiously share with him, because again, I felt like this person might not be who they said they were, yet something inside me kept me connected to him. After a while, the messages slowed down, and I forgot about him.
This year, they started up again. At first, he was simply saying hello. Then, he began sharing his story from Pakistan. He showed me pictures of children and families working in factories under pretty dire conditions and extreme heat. I was interested in their plight, but I admit I was still very cautious and spent many hours combing the internet for cloned pictures to verify or debunk his story. Again, our contact slowed down and became silent.
Then, one day, he sent me a GoFundMe request to help these families in Faisalabad. I investigated it and saw that no money had been sent to the charity. This caused me great concern, as I felt that now, after all this time, I was finally discovering that I was being lied to. That I was being set up for a long con. That I was buying into something that didn’t actually help anyone.
I responded with a fairly vicious attack on the character of the man and told him how disappointed I was that I was being spammed for money, yet knew nothing about him, his mission, the truth, or anything. After some time, he responded with a sentence that softened my heart. He said he was sorry that he was so forward and offered to prove who he said he was. This lead to him sending me documents and photos, all of which I still wasn’t sure really identified him. Truth be told, my feeling was anyone could procure photos of sad little kids in a village needing food. Again, I wasn’t on the right track.
One day, as I was walking into my office, my phone started buzzing with a notification from Facebook messenger. It was Danish and he was trying to contact me. I ignored it. After a few days, he found me on Skype and did the same. I ignored it. A few days after this, he was back on messenger and again I ignored it. He was asking if I wanted to talk to his mission’s leadership. I declined.
Finally, a few days later, Danish reached out to me one last time on messenger with a live video request. I accepted it (I still don’t know why) and saw this man amongst a large group of people, singing songs I couldn’t understand. He was nearby the group singing and shouting into messenger, asking how I was and that he wanted me to see what his life is like in Pakistan.
At this moment, I could see through the haze of my objections. He was real, living in difficult circumstances, struggling to put words together in English and simply happy to put a live voice to my Facebook icon. It was surreal and difficult to comprehend. Yes, the world is made much smaller with social media, but I hadn’t really expected to see this. A few days later, he reached out again and spent some time chatting with me amongst little children, many of whom asked the same thing of me…. who was I and why was I on Danish’s Facebook messenger?
Shortly after this, Danish sent me a message, asking me to share my thoughts, wisdom (yeah, right) and faith with a small group of people at a home church. None of these people would be able to fully understand me, but Danish would translate. He asked if I was a pastor (again, yeah right) and what I would talk about. I had no idea, but I promised I’d do something. Then, he asked me to connect with him for my live share. He told me it’d be 5:45 AM my time (Pakistan is 12 hours away) and if that was okay. I demured and said okay, but truth be told, I had no idea what I’d say or if I’d even be awake enough to share my thoughts.
When the call came this morning, I was tongue tied. I just went with it, and as Danish moved his phone around the room, translating for me, it was evident I was speaking to a small home church of maybe 15 people, all hiding their faith from the outside world.
It was a strange and powerful experience. After I shared, Danish introduced me to the people in the room, many of whom were actually his family. After he introduced me to his grandfather, the man began singing to me. Danish said it was a song to honor me. It was very hard to accept because I don’t feel that I should be honored. I am just a guy, living in North Bend, Wa. A bit of a madman. A bit of a lunatic. A serious hypocrite.
Here’s the thing, though…. it was what I needed, when I needed it. It was a powerful reminder that we are all in this together, no matter the color of our skin, our religious leanings (or lack thereof), of the language and cultural barriers we encounter. We can overcome all of this if we choose. I’m not saying to turn a blind eye to criminals, but I am suggesting that we should do better in how we make snap judgments. Certainly, that last sentence applies to me.
I look at my fat stomach, my car, my possessions, the city I work in with large business centers that have walls of tv’s lined up simply as decoration, the waste and the mindlessness so many of us have in common, and I am sad. I am sad that we can’t keep it in check. I don’t want this lie, this mindset, to invade my life ever again. I’ve been there. I’ve made a ton of money. I’ve lost a ton of money. I was owned by everything that I despise. I lost my way, but no more.
I want a reminder every day to remain humble. I want to know I am lead by my heart to serve people, not by my ego to be a leader. I want this for you as well.
Thank you Danish for having the courage to reach out to me, someone you knew nothing about, to share your convictions and to your purpose. I’m so proud to be your friend.