Pet kangaroos are rare, even in Australia, but my friend Barry had one he called Skippy—a joey, a juvenile kangaroo. A wild kangaroo normally rejects any human contact, but this was destined to be a different story.
While driving on a forest road, Barry and his family noticed that a doe kangaroo had been struck by a vehicle and died beside the road. They checked the mother kangaroo’s pouch and found Skippy inside—a confused, vulnerable infant, too young to survive alone in the wild. Barry’s family decided to pick up the marsupial, who seemed to be all legs and tail, and take him home. They figured he had a better chance of survival in their backyard than in a forest full of predators.
Skippy blended into Barry’s family and was an instant hit with all the neighborhood kids. Barry’s family, although novices in caring for a kangaroo, soon proved themselves expert nurturers of Skippy. They offered Skippy milk, which he gratefully received. They constructed an artificial pouch, where Skippy would sleep safely inside, and hung it on their back veranda. Whenever he was startled or intimidated, he would bound for that pouch on the veranda and burrow into its depths. He would stay there, perfectly motionless, for a few minutes and when all was calm, he would cautiously peer from the opening of the pouch to check if everything was safe.
Skippy spent most of his time under Barry’s sprawling mango trees, feasting on the plentiful grass that grew in the shade. Kangaroos aren’t usually renowned for intelligence, but Skippy was smart enough to know that he was in a good place. In this nurturing and safe environment, the once-fragile joey grew to be a formidable fence-jumper and eventually outgrew the pouch on the veranda.
Barry realized that Skippy needed a world bigger than a backyard. It was time.
He coaxed Skippy into the car to make the journey to where he really belonged, back to the eucalypt forest where he had been conceived. Noticing a mob of kangaroos in a grassy opening of that forest, the slowing car stopped, and Barry opened the door. That was the only invitation Skippy needed—he was free!
Why the story of my high school friend who cared for a vulnerable kangaroo?
Many lives around us have tragically collided with the COVID-19 pandemic. Killing innumerable thousands, the pandemic has left many more vulnerable and physically, financially, socially, psychologically, and spiritually compromised. Many in our communities need care, even more than a motherless kangaroo did.
You may have suffered as a result of COVID-19 and need some nurturing care. For those who have been called to be spiritual leaders, seeking and accepting care can be as foreign as a kangaroo accepting care from humans. But if you’re in need of help, I encourage you to seek it and accept it. No elder, deacon or deaconess is immune to suffering.
Alternatively, you may be coping relatively well during this ongoing crisis and are able to provide care to other hurting people. Jack, a member of my Sabbath School class, is currently providing a “pouch” by caring for a homeless person in his Baltimore neighborhood. The Emmanuel Brinklow Seventh-day Adventist Church near where I live recently provided 1,800 meals, spanning two recent occasions, for the needy in their community.
There are many more extraordinary examples, and most are being provided by novices—people who have never previously encountered a pandemic. While taking all appropriate cautions for health and safety, we can still provide care and help to the needy in our churches and our communities. This isn’t a time for passivity—for hoping someone else will step up to do what’s needed. Jesus’ teaching comes to mind: “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’” (Matt 25:40, ESV).