Over the years many people have asked me why I am so passionate about the Golden Rule.
It started for me over 25 years ago. My wife, Lily, and I had gone to Flagstaff for a short weekend getaway from the hectic life of a suburban pastor. About midnight I told my wife we had to go home. She was confused but understanding when I told her, “I just have this overwhelming feeling that I need to go home.”
We arrived home about 2:30 in the morning and had just gotten into bed when the phone rang. The voice on the other end said, “You’re son has just fallen 45 feet in Africa and is not expected to live.” Tim, our son, had been in the Congo building a church and had fallen from the roof.
After many phone calls and prayers and much supplication for the life of our son it was decided that I should go to be with him. He had fallen in the Congo but a medical plane had flown him to South Africa, where he could get better care.
Arriving in Johannesburg, I saw a man with a sign saying, “Rev. Fultz.” It was a Baptist minister who had seen the story on TV and had volunteered to come to the airport to pick me up. He took me to the hospital and then to his home, where he cared for me as a brother.
In the meantime, back home, Tom Horne had called our home asking if I would be willing to run for the Paradise Valley School Board. At that time Tom was the president of the board; we had met when I was a basketball coach for his son.
My wife told him that I had gone to South Africa and explained the events that had called me there.
He asked, “Why didn’t you go with him?” She explained that we really didn’t have the money for both of us to go and we had decided it was best that I go. Without hesitation, Tom told Lily that he was taking his family to Hawaii that day at noon but he would leave a blank check with his housekeeper and she should fill out any amount she needed and join me in South Africa.
Imagine my surprise when she arrived at the hospital and told me the story of how she was able to come. Unfortunately, after several days our son passed away. When we arrived home, Tom and his dear wife, Marty, continued to come to our home, taking us out to dinner and to the movies. He paid for counselling for both of us and sat in our living room night after night just listening to our pain and sorrow.
When Tom became the head of the Department of Education for the state I went to his board room and told that story to his employees and board members. They were a bit astonished. Tom had never told anyone about what he had done.
Strange bedfellows, some would think: a Baptist minister and a Jewish lawyer. That’s the beauty of the Golden Rule. It passes over distinctions that we have made and goes to the heart of the matter, and that is that we are all God’s children, human beings who feel pain, sorrow and heartache all the same and have need for someone to love and understand at the point of our deepest need.
Two wonderful people showed me the fruits of the Golden Rule through this misfortune: a Baptist minister in Africa whom I had never met before and a Jewish lawyer who could have easily told my wife he was sorry to hear about our loss and hung up.
I am not sure if my wife and I could have gotten through those horrible months that followed had it not been for Tom and Marty. What my brother did for me in South Africa is another story for another article. For now, the Golden Rule will always be a part of my life. From that moment on, both my wife and I have looked for opportunities that we can share just as these folks did with us.
For that reason I am delighted to be the executive director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement with more than 20 faith traditions that are just as passionate about the Golden Rule as I am.
The Rev. Larry Fultz is executive director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement.
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