By Debbonnaire Kovacs
Solomon Nassim El-Charif wasn’t listening to the sermon. He usually liked Pastor Lewis’s sermons, but today Solly was thinking about the Sabbath School lesson. For some reason, the story felt very real to him. He could imagine all the sick people lying around the pool of Bethesda. He tried to imagine what it would be like to lie on a hard pallet of blankets for thirty-eight years. He couldn’t even imagine being like that for five years! Thirty-eight years was longer than even Father had been alive.
The people around him laughed suddenly, and Solly knew he had missed one of Pastor Lewis’s funny stories. He tried to pay attention, but his mind drifted back to Jerusalem and the pool of Bethesda. He looked across the church at Mike, sitting with his dad and Aunt Rose. It would be bad enough to go around day after day, week after week, year after year not being able to see. Solly had often led Mike or helped him do something. But Mike could do many things by himself. What if you couldn’t do anything at all? What if your friends had to carry you everywhere and even dress you? Or worse, what if you didn’t even have friends?
Looking around the church, Solly saw Ted, a young man who spent his whole life in a wheelchair. He saw Mrs. Simms, who had to use a walker. He saw Miss Kent, one of Mother’s patients. Miss Kent wore a hat to cover her head. Her hair had fallen out from chemotherapy. Susannah’s little brother, Johnny, was fussy today. Susannah had said in Sabbath School that she was afraid he might be getting sick. Her family might not stay for potluck.
Solly tried to imagine Jesus walking up and down the aisles, touching everyone and making them all well. Why didn’t He do that? Or better yet, why didn’t He make it so nobody ever got sick in the first place?
Of course, Solly knew at least part of the answer—Satan. Satan was the one who had caused all the trouble. Soon Jesus would put an end to it all, but for now, the whole universe needed to see just how bad sin is and all the trouble it causes. God, the only One who could understand the whole picture, was in control, and people had to decide whether to trust Him or not. Solly wondered about those who decided not to trust Him. If you didn’t trust God, what else was there?
Mother nudged Solly, and he jumped. Everyone was standing. He stood in a hurry. Was it really time for the closing song already?
Right in the middle of the song, there was a shrill beeping. Solly groaned as Mother put a hand to her belt to muffle the sound and hurried out to the lobby. Not now! Not another spoiled Sabbath!
In a few minutes, the service ended, and people began to file out of the sanctuary. Solly hurried to find Mother. “It’s all right,” she told him. “One of my patients just needed advice. I talked to her a little and told her I’ll visit tonight.”
“So we can stay for potluck? What a relief!” Solly loved potluck!
Susannah’s mom walked by carrying Johnny, who was still fussing. She looked worried. Solly’s mother stopped her. “Does he have a fever?” She put a gentle hand on his forehead.
“Yes, I’m afraid he does. I shouldn’t have brought him. I didn’t think he was himself this morning. We’re on our way home,” Susannah’s mom explained.
Solly looked at Susannah and the others. “Couldn’t we give the rest of the kids a ride home?”
“Certainly,” Mother said. “Your children may eat with us, and then we’ll bring them home. When we do, I’ll come in and see how Johnny’s feeling.” She patted Johnny’s back.
Solly’s mother made sure all the kids washed their hands before they went to stand in line in the fellowship room. As they wound their way to the end of the line, Solly watched Mother stop to speak to Ted in his wheelchair. She laid her hand on his cheek, and he smiled up at her. Next, she helped Mrs. Simms get to a seat, folded her walker out of her way, and brought her a plate of food.
On her way back to where Solly was saving her a place in line, Mother pretended to scold Miss Kent, who was filling her plate. “More salad, young lady! How many times do I have to tell you, raw food is your best friend.”
Miss Kent laughed and promised to eat more salad. “And I’ll choose my dessert from the fruit tray,” she promised.
Just as the El-Charifs and the Farmer children finally reached the serving tables, there was a commotion in the kitchen.
“Ow, ow!” someone wailed.
“Sit down, quickly!” another voice ordered. “Dr. El-Charif!”
Mother was already halfway to the kitchen. Solly watched through the serving window. Nairobi Washington had cut her finger while trying to help slice tomatoes for the last vegetable tray. She was holding her hand and trying not to cry. Solly saw his mother put her hand on Nairobi’s head. “It’s all right, Nairobi. Let me see. Don’t worry, lots of blood is a good thing. It cleans the wound. Someone bring me the first-aid kit.”
Nairobi’s mother hurried to the kitchen. Her dad held on to Kenya, preventing her from joining the crowd. “Dr. El-Charif will take care of everything.”
Solly filled his plate without paying much attention to what he chose. He sat where he could still see the kitchen. He couldn’t hear his mother anymore, but he could see her gentle hands and her smile. He even saw Nairobi smile shakily back at her. In his mind’s eye, he saw Jesus walking among the sick people at the pool of Bethesda. And Solly knew Jesus was still walking today, right here in this church.