Captain Vishal


I remember when I used to work at Marshalls. That seems like a long way from sitting in an office here at Christ Church. I loved my job at Marshalls. I worked in the shoe department, and Heaven knows how many shoes I touched on any given shift. I tried very hard to keep my area of responsibility as clean as possible so that when it was time to leave, I didn’t have to stay a single extra minute in order to tidy up my department. It was a fun job that provided me with some necessary resources - enough to even send money back to my mother in Ghana. I also remember some of the people that I worked with. I don’t know where they are or what they may be doing nowadays, whether they still work on those floors, or whether have moved on as I have. In spite of enjoying the job, though, my experience working at Marshalls was that staff had to remain invisible to patrons unless the patrons had a need or a question. Prior to the pandemic and throughout this horrible period in history, millions are the people who stock shelves and move all kinds of merchandise for our use. When the pandemic was at its peak, at a time when many of us actually had to quarantine, many were the people who cooked meals that were delivered to us, unnumbered were the people who did our shopping for us. For those of us who actually made it to the stores to purchase items that we needed, it was gratifying to know that there were still items on the shelves - and that people were actually working to put those items on those shelves. The tragedy is that they remained invisible to us. I couldn’t make it to any store during the Black Friday craze. You and I can only imagine the work that others did to make our shopping experience as less tasking and as pleasurable as can be. The tragedy is that those who work to make all these happen remain invisible to us.

When was the last time you asked the associate at the cash register how he or she was doing? When was the last time you sought to inquire from the server how life is treating them? When was the last time you asked about the cleaner's family? When was the last time you shared a laugh with a subordinate? When was the last time you said, "Thank you" to someone at the store? The tragedy is that they, too, remain invisible to us. There’s a story of an Indian pilot whose name was Vishal. He was a great pilot who flew a dangerous solo mission over enemy lines, and almost made it back until he was shot down just as he re-entered Indian airspace. But as he felt his engines begin to fail and with the aircraft plummeting to earth, he ejected from the cockpit, deployed his parachute, and landed safely by some rail tracks. He was considered a national hero. And for his valor, he received numerous national and military honors and a great promotion with all the benefits. Well, one afternoon, while Captain Vishal was off duty, he stopped by a restaurant for a meal. Halfway through his starters, a short wiry looking man appeared by his table carrying with him a great deal of excitement. "Captain Vishal? Are you the fighter pilot who got shot down? Sir, I’m a big fan,” he exclaimed. Vishal was taken aback. “How did you know who I was?” he queried. The little man beamed. “Captain,” he said, “my name is Corporal Khan. I packed your parachute that day.” Captain Vishal couldn’t sleep that night. The conversation he had with Corporal Kahn weighed on him. He thought about Corporal Kahn and the important life-saving work that he did. He figured that he had probably walked past Corporal Khan on countless occasions without even acknowledging his presence. Yet, his very life depended on the good job that the anonymous little man did on that very day and continued to do every day afterward. We are a few weeks away from Christmas, which is fantastic. Christmas is, to me, the best season. As we approach the height of our holiday shopping season, you and I will be buying lots and lots of stuff - for others, and for ourselves. This is what I implore you to do - I plead with you to keep in mind the invisible men or women who toil to make life a little easier for us this season - the cook and the server at the restaurant; the men and women who stock up the store shelves; the student at the market cash register; those who clean the many spaces in which we conduct business, worship, and gather for fun; the driver who delivers our purchases to our homes; the many people who work to make our lives a little comfortable. The invisible men and women. There’s a story in Luke’s gospel of Zacchaeus. He desired to see Jesus but because of the crowd and his height, he decided to go ahead of the crowd and climb a tree with the hope that he would have a good glimpse of Jesus from there. He thought he made himself invisible. But the Lord Jesus - who sees us, notices us, calls us each by their names, and for whom no one is invisible - saw Zacchaeus and called him to climb down from the tree. No one should be invisible to us, especially those who serve us in ways we can not serve ourselves. My prayer for you this Advent season and always is for you to notice the Corporal Khans in your life. Take a minute, and talk to them. Ask them about their lives and families. Tell them how special they are, and thank them for the work they do. My prayer for you today is that you may take a moment and bless the invisible man or woman with your presence and heartfelt thanks. Captain Vishal wouldn’t have been alive were it not for Corporal Khan, who did his job well. Likewise, you are who you are because others did their jobs well and continue to do so. Notice them. Let no one be invisible to you. Manny