• Dr. Hal Kitchings

A doctor saves the man who saved him: The best way to treat every person we meet

POSTED MAY 13, 2020

By Dr. Jim Denison

Dr. Rick Pitera is an anesthesiologist at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, New Jersey. Five years ago, he had a heart attack that led to a long recovery through physical therapy. His exercise therapist in the cardiac rehabilitation unit was named Danny Radice. The two worked together for several difficult weeks.


“He helped me get my life back,” Pitera said. “It’s not hyperbole to say I owe Dan my life.” 

This March, coronavirus overwhelmed St. Barnabas with the state’s second-highest number of COVID-19 cases. One of them was Danny Radice. This time, it was Pitera who worked tirelessly to save Radice. After more than six days on a ventilator, Radice survived and finally left the hospital on April 17. 


Before he left, however, Pitera took a selfie with him. The doctor had returned the favor by saving his friend’s life. 


The couple who helped launch our ministry 


Much of the news this week has been dominated by the tragic death of Ahmaud Arbery and issues related to racial prejudice. On Monday, we discussed God’s ability to forgive every sin we confess, including racial discrimination, and to give us a “clean heart” (Psalm 51:10). Yesterday we focused on our side of this process and the need for greater awareness, cross-racial relationships, and commitment to systemic change. 


Today, let’s broaden our discussion to focus on a lifestyle of relational inclusivity. My suggestion is this: treat every person you meet as though you will meet them again. 


It may be that you save a life and then this person saves yours. Or it may be that your influence on them and theirs on you extends even into eternity. 


In August 1973, two men knocked on my apartment door and invited me to ride their bus to their church. They could not have known that I would one day become the youth minister of their church and that one of their daughters would be in my youth ministry. 


In September 1980, I was a lonely college freshman when the chairman of the Christianity department befriended me. He could not have known that one day I would speak at his funeral. 


A few years into my pastorate in Dallas, a couple who was visiting our church asked my wife and me to dinner. We could not have known that they would eventually help us launch the ministry we have led for the last eleven years. 


When coincidence is providence 


John 4 tells one of my favorite stories from the life of Jesus. Here we find his humanity and his divinity both on display in a remarkable balance. 


John tells us that our Lord “came to a town of Samaria called Sychar” (v. 5). Jacob’s famous

well (v. 6a) still stands at this location; I have drunk from its water myself. Our text reports that “Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well” (v. 6b). 

You know what came next: a Samaritan woman arrived at the well, Jesus asked her for water, then he offered her “living water” (v. 14). As a result, she came to faith in him and brought her entire village out to meet him (vv. 27–30, 39–42). 


What began as a seemingly coincidental encounter turned out to be a divine appointment. And their conversation was recorded in Holy Scripture as a model for such engagement across Christian history. 


Three reasons to invest in people 


When we see every person we encounter as Jesus saw this woman, we can expect three positive results. 


One: We will invest one-time meetings with eternal significance. Even if we never see this person again, we can plant seeds of spiritual truth that may well bear a harvest we never witness. Oswald Chambers noted that a river touches shores its source never sees. 


Two: We will lay the foundation for lasting relationships in God’s providence. It is impossible to unring a bell or undo a first impression. When we remember that we are ambassadors for Christ every moment of every day (2 Corinthians 5:20), we will relate to others in ways that build bridges to the future with them. 


Three: We will position ourselves to receive as well as to give. God plans to use other people in our lives even as he uses us in theirs. The Samaritan woman became Jesus’ missionary to her village and culture. The Gadarene demoniac became the same to his culture (Mark 5:18–20a) and “everyone marveled” (v. 20b). 


Why Tua Tagovailoa chose his jersey number 


As we build relationships for the kingdom, let’s remember that we do so for the sake of our King. When we love him, we will naturally want to share his love with others. 


Let’s close with an example. Tua Tagovailoa burst onto the sports scene as a college freshman when he entered the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship game in the second half and led Alabama to victory. He became known not only for his athletic brilliance but for his genuine and effervescent Christian faith. 


Tagovailoa was chosen by the Miami Dolphins in the first round of the recent NFL draft. After signing his rookie contract, he announced plans to establish charities in his Hawaiian homeland and in Alabama and Miami. 


Unable to play with his college number of 13 (it was worn by Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino and then retired by the team), he chose the number 1. He explained: “For the Audience of 1,” with an image of praying hands. Tagovailoa did not know when he chose that number that I would write about it or that you would read about it.


How will you play for your “Audience of 1” today?


Until Next Time...

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