“I am the vine, and you are the branches.”

John 15:5

Way back in 1982, I was working for the Austin Symphony. I’d gone out into the small outdoor amphitheater next to our offices and sat under a tree to eat on my lunch break and to read the Daily Texan.

The paper was full of political Sturm und Drang, music reviews, sports, and other things of interest to nascent adults. I skimmed it all and my eyes wandered to the want ads section. There I read: “I am a sophomore at UT. Write me and tell me why I should not kill myself.” A UT mail box address was included.

An experiment for a sociology class? A cry for help? A plea for attention? All three and more? Whatever, a shock ran through me and I began to shake. 

I tossed the rest of my lunch in the trash and went to my typewriter. I was going to write him (I feel sure it was a he). My fingers trembled as I rolled the paper into the machine. Without thinking, I began to type.

I could not think of what to say, and though I’m sure I said more, the following is all I remember. “Jesus said, ‘I am the vine and you are the branches.’ If you think of Jesus at all, you probably see him hanging on a cross, but I see him in the double helix of our DNA. He is life itself.” 

I searched the news carefully for weeks, and with relief read of no suicides of young people, though I continued to worry about and pray for this person. I’ve no idea now why I thought my observation might speak to him, but who knows? Maybe it did. Maybe just that I bothered to write mattered to him. Maybe he just scratched his head and tossed the letter into the trash. Maybe I became the butt of jokes over beer.

But I remember seeing Christ in Life itself, winding like a vine through all ages, an image which has been a gift to me.