Clifton Fadiman, in The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes tells this story about Russian-born novelist, Vladimir Nabokov. One summer in the 1940’s, Nabokov was visiting a friend named James Laughlin in Alta, Utah. While there, Nabokov spent much of his time chasing butterﬂies, in hopes of adding new species to his collection. As Fadiman tells it:
Nabokov’s ﬁction has never been praised for its compassion; he was single-minded if nothing else. One evening at dusk he returned from his day’s excursion saying that during hot pursuit [of a butterﬂy] near Bear Gulch he had heard someone groaning most piteously down by the stream.
“Did you stop?” Laughlin asked him.
“No, I had to get the butterﬂy.”
The next day the corpse of an elderly prospector was found by the stream, and the gulch was renamed Dead Man’s Gulch in Vladimir Nabokov’s “honor.”
Every day we pass people who are groaning and dying spiritually in hallways, we sit by them in waiting rooms, and walk past them with our shopping carts on the way to the car. We work with them, drop off our children at school with them, and cheer little league with them. But are we truly present with them? Are our hearts attuned to their need of Christ’s grace? Do we hear the man’s cry, or only the ﬂap of the wings of our next butterﬂy?
“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.”
– Proverbs 11:30 (NIV)