by Rich Flowers in the 3-20-2012 edition of The Athens Review, Athens, Texas
Sometimes life can take a turn that makes you see things in a different light.
A few weeks ago, Patrick Greene of San Antonio was known in Henderson County simply as a professed atheist who threatened to sue Henderson County about the courthouse manger scene. Greene’s experience with Christians was of narrow-minded individuals who had treated him unkindly throughout his life.
“My wife and I had never had a Christian do anything nice for us,” Greene said. “Just the opposite.”
That changed when the 63-year-old learned he had a detached retina. Greene was forced to give up driving his Yellow Cab, and resign himself to his impending blindness. Eye surgery would cost $20,000 he said, and he didn’t even have the money to pay bills or buy groceries.
Jessica Crye, a member of Sand Springs Baptist Church in Athens, learned of his troubles on the Internet, and felt compelled to help. Crye’s pastor, the Rev. Eric Graham, contacted Greene to find out more about his needs.
“I said first of all, I don’t want $20,000,” Greene said. “That would be ridiculous, because there’s a chance the surgery would fail. On top of that, there’s a chance it could become detached again.” Greene told Graham he had a more immediate need. “I said, if you really want to contribute something to help, we need groceries,” Greene said.
Greene said he was “flabbergasted” to learn that a group of Christians in Henderson County was reaching out to help an atheist, who in February had informed Commissioners Court that he would sue if the manger scene reappeared this year.
“I told my wife about it,” Greene said.
“They’re going to help us?” Karen asked.
Greene thought that if anything, he’d see $50, maybe $100. A few days later, the Christians made good on their promise, and sent a check for $400.
“I said I can’t believe it,” Greene said. “I thought I was in the Twilight Zone.”
The money went to help pay the rent, and provide necessities from the grocery store. The contributions didn’t stop at $400 either, Crye said. More money is coming in.
Greene is so amazed by the generosity of the Christians in Henderson County, he’s sharing the story through the media, and is thinking about writing a book. “I’m going to call it The Real Christians of Henderson County,’” Greene said. “These people are acting like what the Bible says a Christian does.” Greene plans on publishing the work as an e-book. “I’m dedicating the book to my wife, the young lady who started the idea, and Reverend Graham.”
Crye said just about everyone she’s heard from has been supportive of reaching out to Greene. “I like to look on the positive side,” Crye said. “It’s wonderful what God has done.”
Now, rather than keep trying to keep the manger scene removed, Green said he’d like to add his contribution. “I have decided to show my appreciation to the Christian community for all their help, and I am going to buy a star for the top of the Nativity scene,” Greene said.
Matthew 5:43-47 — (Jesus said), “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”
I Thessalonians 5:15 — Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
I Peter 3:13-14 — Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.
O God, the Lord of all, your Son commanded us to love our enemies and to pray for them. Lead them (and us) from all prejudice to truth; deliver them (and us) from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and enable us all to stand before you, reconciled through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
—Lutheran Book of Worship, page 44, (alt.)