By Steven Norris

Once again, that familiar voice on the other end of the line was there right when I needed him. I don’t know that he told me anything novel or that he imparted any great wisdom, but he reminded me of my identity. He reminded me of my calling. He reminded me of the gifts that God had given me and were now at my disposal.

We all need people like that in our lives. Those who are willing to come alongside us and speak words of encouragement in our darkest and most difficult moments – in the moments where we aren’t sure whether or not we can go on.

We find a similar friend in the book of Acts. After his fateful journey on the road to Damascus, Saul of Tarsus was at a crossroads. On the one hand, he had gone “all in” on ridding Palestine of Jesus’ followers, persecuting them as blasphemers and heretics. On the other hand, this vision of the resurrected Christ called everything he knew and believed into question. (See Acts 9:1-18.)

As he journeyed to Jerusalem to meet with the early believers, I imagine that Saul (now called Paul) was rehearsing in his mind the things that he might say. I imagine that he was playing and replaying his apology, hoping to convince the Christians he had changed and was now one of them.

When he arrived in Jerusalem, he met a man named Barnabas who “took him, brought him to the disciples, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord…and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus.” In other words, he vouched for Paul. Earlier in Acts, we learned that the name Barnabas means “son of encouragement.”

I can’t help but think that we need those with the spirit of Barnabas in our world more than ever. Back in the spring, as the pandemic was overwhelming our medical system, many of us gathered together to show support and love to our healthcare workers. Around the nation, we parked in hospital parking lots, we cheered for nurses and doctors at shift change, we prayed for them earnestly, and offered them little goodies to encourage them and to laud them as heroes.

As our schools go back, our teachers need to hear that same kind of encouragement. They need to know that we see the heroic work they do as well. After all, they are being asked to adapt to doing their job and fulfilling their life’s calling in ways for which they were not trained. More than anything, they are trying to love our children in whatever way that they can.

So this week, I’m asking us all to be a “Barnabas” for some teacher. Send them a note of thanks, a card of encouragement, a little gift to let them know that you see what they are doing and that you appreciate them. In the midst of all the conflict and division, let’s be sure to remember who the real heroes are in our community and let them know how much we care.