How To Change A Life: Pay Good Attention

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How To Change A Life: Pay Good Attention

Sometimes, we simply need to pay good attention to the people around us. If we do, we might even change a life.

A Simple, But True, Story

Damon and Sara learned this as they reached out to Abdu, from East Africa.

At 6’5” (~196 cm), Abdu towered over his new American friends.

Damon had met Abdu at an International Student Welcome Day at a local school. Damon had noticed him not just because of his height and stature, but he also appeared shy, a character trait with which Damon could relate.

Abdu is married with three children back home.

“My government sent me here to learn business management, but they cannot afford to send my family, too. I miss them so much. This place is so, so…different.”

He had already been in the U.S. for a month. But when Damon and Sara volunteered to drive Abdu home to his apartment from the picnic, they discovered his furniture consisted of only a mattress, a hotel-style couch, and a couple small tables.

“Abdu wanted to invite us in. It is their custom to show hospitality. But he hesitated as we approached the door,” Sara recounts.

“It is nothing,” Abdu admitted. “My place. There is nothing. I wish I could give you something. But I don’t have it for you. Please, I will invite you another time.”

Sneaking A Peek

But somehow Sara decided to pay good attention; she confirmed her hunch as she got a glimpse of the inside of Abdu’s place.

Then she spoke up. “Abdu, what can we get for you? What might you need?”

He looked down for a moment and responded. “A blanket would be nice.”

Sara thought he meant it to be used as a cover for the bedraggled couch. Only later did she discover he had managed a month in the chilly California coastal weather without a blanket. In addition, no one had helped him understand how to turn on the heat.

A Conscious Choice To Help

Then and there, Sara and Damon decided they would “adopt” this man. In the month since he had arrived, he had only seen his apartment and the nearby school where he studied. Because he didn’t have a car, he didn’t know how the local transportation system worked. Consequently, he hadn’t left the city.

The couple went out and bought him a bunch of inexpensive household goods and a simple desk. They had a sturdy mattress and boxspring set in their guest room that they decided to loan to Abdu.  And they found one more thing: a blanket (along with sheets and coverlet).

Next evening, they returned to Abdu’s apartment.

“We have something for you, friend,” they exclaimed as Abdu opened the door.

Sara had made a spicy chicken dish, and the aroma wafted through the room. She had also baked some mean brownies. The two fragrances seemed to compete for attention.

“Ah, I cannot believe you would think of me,” Abdu responded. Tears welled up in his eyes.

“We are having dinner with you,” Damon announced. “My wife insisted,” he continued with a wink.

“But first, let’s bring up some of the necessary items,” Sara suggested.

All three went down to a car brimming with stuff.

Surprise & Overwhelm Melt Into Joy

“I am overwhelmed by all this,” Abdu admitted. Now the tears were flowing. “I don’t know how I can ever thank you. Why would you do this for me?”

Sara and Damon paused. Usually quick with a response, Sara deferred to her husband.

“We are Christians. This is what Christians do. Or, at least they should,” Damon declared.

Abdu cried, “I am a Christian too! That is why, I thought I should just trust God to make it through, to provide for me what I need. He always has. But now, I see that He has provided you to be my friends.”

So the three stood there in a pool of blubbery tears for what seemed like the longest time.

As a result of this encounter, Abdu became a part of Sara and Damon’s family. They would often have him over for meals. They would take him with them on family outings, stuffing him in their van with their three elementary-aged children. In addition, they offered him a ride to church from that time on – a band of shorter, towheaded white Americans with a 6’5” black Kenyan “older brother.”

Who now has a blanket. Plus new friends. And renewed hope.


Has this true story of Abdu moved your heart? If there is an Abdu in your midst, how can you pay good attention and reach out?


Image Credit: Terimakasih0 on Pixabay, Creative Commons

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Caroline DePalatis

Founder & Interculturalist at CultureWeave
Caroline DePalatis has worked in the field of international education and service for over 20 years. A graduate of Stanford University and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, she's still doing much of what she was trained in: bringing people of the world together. A committed Christ-follower, Caroline longs to shine the Master Designer's awesome creativity expressed through the cultures, languages, peoples and places of our world. And then there's dark chocolate. Definitely a channel for intercultural communications!
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Caroline DePalatis has worked in the field of international education and service for over 20 years. A graduate of Stanford University and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, she’s still doing much of what she was trained in: bringing people of the world together. A committed Christ-follower, Caroline longs to shine the Master Designer’s awesome creativity expressed through the cultures, languages, peoples and places of our world. And then there’s dark chocolate. Definitely a channel for intercultural communications!

  • Nicole Valentin

    What a wonderful story. If only everyone would pay attention like that and be willing to step out and help. Well, we can hope right!