He was one of God’s “little ones,” I would think. Self-conscious and timid to a fault, James could hardly bring himself to talk face to face. When he did, it was with utmost deference. But what a worker — and in some of the most tedious, demanding, and low-paying jobs in the law firm. First as file clerk for litigation, responsible for accurately organizing and filing a daily flood of paper. Then as detail man for case closings, ear glued to telephone much of the day, verifying medical bills, case costs and other necessary minutiae. Rarely absent, never tardy, scarcely taking a break, he worked faithfully and diligently day after day after day. I complimented his work whenever the opportunity arose — almost selfishly, because it made me feel so good to see the joy in his face when he was noticed and commended.
Circumstances fell hard on James this last year. First his mother died, then his father became ill and required his presence. Things were not smooth with his wife and stepchildren. But whatever his burdens, James kept them inside. I especially grieved in August when the owners of the law firm said James’ job was one of several being cut. I interceded for James — argued his merits, pleaded his cause. But James’ supervisor could really perform both men’s duties and sound business principles compelled that solution.
In September, I moved also, as God graciously and quickly provided other employment. James was not equally blessed, and I will always wonder why. In October, I felt the Holy Spirit’s nudging to inquire of his welfare and was able to track him down. No job yet, he said, and no good leads. I felt like God wanted me to send him a small check, so I did, with a note I hoped would provide some encouragement. In response, this timid, trembling man wrote one of the most eloquent “thank you’s” I have ever read, much less received. “I will not forget your uncommon generosity and kindness,” he said, in closing, graciously measuring my gift by the size of his own abundant heart. He still did not have a job.
I mentioned James recently to my own new employers. They thought we might have a part-time place for him in a few months. I meant to call him again to see how he is, but I have not yet done so. Then, two days before Christmas 1997, my former secretary phoned me during dinner. “I thought you would want to know,” she said. “James killed himself this afternoon.”
I had many good intentions, which now are all too late. I grieve for the loneliness and hopelessness that drove James to such desperate action. I am comforted with the thought that no sparrow falls without God’s notice — and certainly no human being, however weak or timid or poor. I pray that God will give him peace, and eternal riches by the merits of Jesus Christ. And I pray that God will stir us, the living, to realign our values and priorities, that he will give us eyes and ears to see and hear his “little ones,” that he will make our hearts pulsate toward them with the merciful heart of God. It is so dreadfully easy to do otherwise.