Last week my parents visited a childhood acquaintance of mine named Russell. Russell and I are close in age, and his late mom and my mom were great friends. But that’s where most of our similarities end. Russell is disabled and has lived his whole life in a wheelchair. As a kid, I remember that Russell’s forearms were prodigious, and he could easily crack the knuckles of my puny hand when he shook it. Yet his world was so much smaller than mine, and his temper could sometimes get the best of him, and I was not the most sympathetic of friends to him. On a few occasions, I would go to his house to play his favorite game, Monopoly. Candidly, I did not look forward to it. Mine was a world of spider bikes and baseball cards and crushes on girls. His world was mostly circumscribed by the living room window that looked out onto the street in front of his house.

My mom shared with me that as they chatted with Russell last week, the conversation soon turned to me. They shared with Russell that I’m married, have four kids, and pastor a church in Dallas. He seemed amazed, and for some reason asked them for a picture of my church. I tracked down a photo, and sat down to write a little note to go with it.

But what to write? By comparison, mine has been a life of Boardwalk and Park Place, and his has never really had a chance to pass “Go.” I was suddenly overwhelmed with, if not survivor’s guilt, a kind of “thriver’s guilt.” In the intervening years since our Monopoly matches, I had graduated high school, been to college, met my wife, been to graduate school, trudged my way through a couple of half-marathons, welcomed four kids into the world, served at great churches with wonderful colleagues, traveled to Peru and Bali and Nairobi and London and Vancouver, and regularly complained about mowing the yard that surrounds the house we own. None of this I deserve, and much of it I regularly take for granted. And all this time, over the ensuing four decades, Russell moved from his mother’s house to a group home, never venturing more than a few feet from his wheelchair. The universe felt grossly unfair, and I was sitting squarely in the camp of the ‘haves’ sending a note to a ‘have-not.’ And to think that back in my childhood, when I had a chance to bring a sliver of sunlight into his cloistered life, I avoided it and resented it. Lord have mercy…

As I reflected on the drastically different trajectories of our lives, I could not shake a memory of a favorite Old Testament story. It’s a Mockingfave about a heartbroken king named David, searching for any descendants of Jonathan (his dead best friend) so that he might “show kindness” to them. A young man named Mephibosheth, who as a child was “crippled in both feet” after a tragic accident, was located, and David sent for him. As a grandson of David’s former rival King Saul, Mephibosheth possessed a great deal of trepidation about the encounter. Upon meeting the king, this man who lived his whole life at low altitude bowed even lower, and likely quivered as he asked, “Who is your servant, that you should show kindness to a dead dog like me?” (2 Sam 9:8 NLT). David does not answer that question, but instead welcomes this “dead dog” to eat at his table like royalty.

Russell feels like Mephibosheth to me, but I’m not exactly sure where to place myself in the story. Each day I overlook a myriad of blessings that Russell has never even sniffed. Mine has been a web of interwoven and often neglected gifts—wedding anniversaries, Father’s Days, a fulfilling vocation, a host of friends, a lifetime of smelling roses. One day, I trust, Russell’s turn will come, when the King calls all of his children home. I doubt that Russell will need anyone to carry him to that table where the Son of David sits at the head. But should Russell need or just want someone to carry him, for old times’ sake, I pray that I finally have that privilege.