Saturday, December 13, 2014

Seeing the Light

I have spent the better part of my day bundled under heavy blankets, 
feeling tired and crappy.
I think my husband may have shared his bug with me.
I wonder if anyone would notice if I wore my pj's and a sweatshirt to the show tonight.
I am seriously considering wearing my slippers.
This morning I arose bright and early (well, it felt early, since I went to bed late) and headed off to church.
We were having our annual "Caring and Sharing" day.
This is a pretty cool thing.
Each week, we have guests that visit the church for assistance.
We have an active food pantry, and help with monetary assistance when able also.
Well, this event is SO much more than that.
Each guest receives an invitation to come.
We open with some Christmas carols (my part)
and a brief little prayer service.
Then the elves get to work.
And there literally are elves.
This is a well run machine.
We have some amazing parishioners who donate a lot of their time to make sure this event goes off without a hitch. (And some wear elf hats or reindeer antlers...because it's important to look the part!) 
Everyone is given a box of non-perishable food.
(They take it to their cars)
Then they are given their perishable food.
(They take it to their cars)
And finally...the fun part.
The gathering area, kitchen and one section of the church are literally heaped with items.  There are clothes, toys, coats, bedding, bath items, housewares, home decor...everything you can imagine.
This is all laid out for the guests to go "Christmas shopping."  
(Free of cost, of course.)
Behind all of this giving and craziness is Sister Bridget.  Our resident red headed nun.  She is the queen of giving.  You have to keep an eye on your stuff, because if you leave it on the counter or in the fridge and it's not clearly labeled, she will definitely give it away!
I write about this, because when I was walking in....I was having judgmental thoughts.
Sometimes, this event can turn into a free-for-all.
It has evolved over the years, and the kinks have been worked out....but some were learned the hard way.
When I have witnessed things turning into "crazy-land" it really bothered me.
I couldn't understand why people who were being given all of these nice things were being so pushy and impatient.
Today as I approached the church, I was looking around the parking lot.
It was filled with cars.  Not junkie cars...just your everyday, average cars.
There were guests standing outside on their cell phones, smoking cigarettes.
(This is where my judgmental thoughts come in.)
I immediately thought "you need assistance to buy gas and food, but you find the money for a cell phone and cigarettes?....that just doesn't makes sense to me."
I can't say I am ashamed about my thoughts regarding the cigarettes.
Anyone who is wasting their money on that crap instead of feeding their kids decent food deserves a little judgement.  (just my opinion.  I will stop there.)
So, I walk in, put on my smile, and book it to the piano, because I am late, and Sister is gonna be mad at meeeeeee.
(She ran by and frantically said "start playing something to quiet them down...pleeease!!"

Soon the little prayer service began, and I was informed that one of the guests (a woman) would be singing.  With a CD.  Not a karaoke CD, with just the instrumental track on it....but the actual CD with the artist (male) singing on it.
(Here come judgmental thoughts #2)
In my snobby little head, I thought "Oh boy...this should be good." 
A woman named Mary got up and stood in the front of the church.
She was wearing what was probably her Sunday best.  
She seemed quiet, but not overly shy.
I was sitting behind it was hard to hear her, because I was right in front of the CD player....however, I could feel her.
I don't know what the song was....
it spoke of being down and out....of making mistakes in life....
that sort of theme.
What I do know that as soon as she started 
singing the refrain:
"I've been redeemed"
I lost it.
It wasn't because I got lost in the beauty of the sound (she did a very nice job singing).
I don't even know if it was just because of the text....although that did hit me right in the heart.
I think it may have been a combination of things....and of her, opening her arms out if she was just letting go of all of her hardships and allowing all of God's love to fill her.
I know it filled me.  And my tears washed away all of the judgement I had carried in with me just minutes ago.
I think we all were redeemed.
As I walked out of church, I was chatting with the people around me, carrying their food boxes to their cars.
They weren't in a hurry to get back to the "good" stuff.
They were simply (and quite humbly) doing as they were told.  
We talked about the weather, and warned each other to be careful on the sidewalks, because they had been icy when we arrived.
We smiled at each other, and wished each other a good day, and a Merry Christmas.
Everyone's hands were full....not with cigarettes or phones, but with boxes filled with good food for their families.
Soon, they would be filled with gifts for their loved ones.
And, for one December morning, all the worries and hardships of their lives melted away
as they accepted the generosity of others.
And I will venture a guess that those who were giving got the best gift of all.

I know that I left that place with my heart filled with gratitude for all the blessings in my life.
I also felt grateful for the time that I spent surrounded by all of those people whom I had been so quick to judge.
 The one thing that I am so careful about in life is to not make assumptions about others, or to make judgements about them, because I have never walked in their shoes.
But here I was, doing the very thing that I have always tried so hard to avoid.
Today was a good reminder that no matter how hard we try, we are always a work in progress.
I know that I will make mistakes.
I know that there will be days when I will say one thing, and do another.
But each day I will make a true effort to learn from the mistakes I make.
And each day I will try to do better than the day before.
Today was a good day.
It was a great reminder that even though I pride myself on being a person who tries really hard to never pass judgement on another....sometimes I fail.
Luckily, life is there to teach me the error of my ways....and usually, it is quite profound.
Today, I saw beauty in unexpected places.
I saw compassion, gratefulness, generosity, and grace.
My heart and my eyes were opened.
This is what the holiday season is really about.
Spread that joy.
Share your good fortune.
Be thankful for your blessings.

Last night, Mark and I went through a drive-through to grab a quick bite on our way to rehearsal in Winona.
The young man who took our order had a Latino accent, and when we got to the window, I immediately noticed his fancy gold "grill" on his teeth. 
(I wasn't expecting this at a Hardee's in Winona.) 
Anyway, I handed him my debit card, and he said "You seem so happy.  Are you this happy all the time?"  I wasn't sure what to say.  I replied "I guess so?"
He then said "People aren't usually this nice when they come through the drive-up."
This hit me as really sad.  I hadn't done anything out of the ordinary.  I was polite when I ordered.  I may have been a little extra upbeat, because I was starving, and kind of happy about getting something to eat!
I looked at him and said "I am all about being nice to someone who is helping me in any way."  He stopped, and then said "Yeah...I guess that makes sense."
This stuck with me the rest of the night.
This poor kid is just working like everyone else.
Who knows how many rude people he has to deal with on any given day.
And why?
What gives anyone the right to be anything less than courteous to someone who is helping them?
I just don't understand.
It obviously must happen more often than not....or he never would have mentioned the fact that I was being so "nice" when I really wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary.
How much more work is it to smile and thank someone, than just to be a jerk and go on your way?
Not much at all.
I remember going shopping with my mom as a teenager, how upset I would get when a salesperson would come up and ask if we needed help.
She would sometimes just ignore them, or brush them off.
I was so embarrassed by that.  I would always ask why she couldn't just say "no thank you?"
I notice this quite often with people.
It's THREE words.
I don't think people realize the impact their behavior has on another person's day.
To simply be kind, courteous, and compassionate is not a lot of work.
It's actually something that will make you feel good.
And it will make those around you feel good as well.
What a concept.
Wouldn't it be interesting to see how society would change if everyone adopted this way of thinking and acting?
I say let's give it a try.


1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Beth! You are blessed to be a blessing!