Showing Love with a Smile

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, February 25, 2014

smiley ball

Showing Love with a Smile

I was intentionally kind to a few people today! Including two workers at the YMCA this morning, several acquaintances, and two strangers. However, those incidences of being kind are not sticking in my mind as much as a situation two days ago. I already wrote about something that happened at the end of the morning, when I played the piano for two services at two different retirement homes. But the situation I’ll feature in today’s post? Just will not get out of my head. So, I’ll talk about it in this space.

At the first retirement center, I arrived some minutes early for the service. In plenty of time to play several familiar hymns for a prelude.  After checking with Chaplain Sarah, the preacher and service leader for the morning, I went to the piano to put down my music and prepare the hymnals. One of the dear seniors—with a walker—slowly entered the chapel. As she shuffled in, I could see one of the center’s employees gently directing the senior to the one of the empty, waiting chairs. The employee gave her some friendly encouragement, trying to cut through the veil of encroaching dementia.

While standing by the piano, I watched, fascinated. The dear senior paused by the second row of chairs from the front, as if considering sitting down. No, she didn’t sit. Instead, she continued, up towards the piano. I was drawn forward to her, almost as if by a magnet. “Hello!” I said, with a big smile. “It’s good to see you this morning.” I reached forward, stroking her arm in a gentle way. I lessened my smile a little, but still kept it on my face.

This dear senior raised her head and looked up at me—something I hadn’t seen her do for some time. (I know her a little, since I come to this center about once a month.) Her eyes met mine. She gestured toward the piano with one elbow, keeping both hands on her walker. “I play,” she said. Her glance fell on the piano, a lovely, older baby grand, a warm medium brown. Glowing in the daylight coming in from outside. “Really?” I responded. “So do I. I’m going to play for you, if you sit down. Here—“ I gently turned her around, rubbing her shoulder in an encouraging way. I led her back to the second row of chairs. She went along, quite willingly. Several other staff members and residents watched as I oriented her to her seat.  Then, I returned to the piano. Started to play. The service for the morning started.

I did a workmanlike job on the service music Sunday morning. I truly enjoy playing for the seniors. But there was something about the interaction in front of the piano that especially touched my heart. It seemed that everyone watched what happened, like the two of us were on stage. I cannot even describe what it was about it that was so moving. But—whatever it was—God was in it. I felt the presence of God in a special way. I don’t know what anyone else’s opinion or reaction to this interaction was, but I know mine. Touching in a deep, meaningful way. Thanks, God. I wonder what You will send my way tomorrow?

@chaplaineliza

Showing Love, Serving Breakfast (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, February 7, 2014

community breakfast - ranier post

Showing Love, Serving Breakfast (Feature Friday!)

Hungry people are all over the place. Not just in the inner city, or in major metropolitan areas. My friend and fellow graduate from seminary, Grace, is now the youth director at River Falls United Methodist Church, in River Falls, Wisconsin. A little over halfway towards the northern border of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Much closer to the western border with Minnesota and the Mississippi River. River Falls is a college town with the University of Wisconsin-River Falls only a few blocks from River Falls UMC. But other than that, the area for miles around is thinly populated. Small towns, farms, wooded patches, some hilly areas. Few large concentrations of people other than the town itself. Grace commented, “There are no services in any other town really. So many people come [to River Falls] for services. Everywhere else is rural.“

However few or many people live in this area, there are still very real, very human needs. Unemployment. Healthcare issues. Hunger. People struggling to make ends meet, and going without. As Grace said in response to my question about unemployment and under-employment, “It is [sad]. Poverty hides well.”

In the midst of this difficult situation, River Falls United Methodist Church does what it can. The church offers a community breakfast each second Saturday from 8 am to 10 am. Anyone can come. And people do attend. From near, from far—they come to be fed.

Moreover, the faith community at River Falls UMC is also a part of another ministry in town—the Tuesday Banquet that happens on the second and fourth Tuesdays at St. Bridget’s Catholic Church. The folks from the UMC help with the cooking and clean-up. What a wonderful opportunity to work together, to cross denominational lines, and show ecumenical unity. This is truly the way to display the love of God—and not highlight the bickering and division between church groups.

I reflected as I read what Grace messaged to me: what a way to show the love of God in a very real (and filling!) way. I also though of the verse from Matthew 25:40, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” In this larger discourse, the words of Jesus can be stern, even frightening. In this specific verse, however, Jesus gives words of praise to His followers who did not even know they were serving God.

Yes, feeding the hungry is service to God just as much as a service to the hungry people. And River Falls UMC offers to feed the hungry not only physically, but spiritually as well. Satisfying hunger to fill an empty stomach ranks as a primary act of love, as far as I’m concerned. God bless the faithful folks at this church for such a loving, caring ministry of service.

@chaplaineliza

(photo credit – community breakfast, RainierPost.com)

Showing Love, Cleaning the Kitchen

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, February 6, 2014

kitchen scene -Flickr

Showing Love, Cleaning the Kitchen

I had an unexpected day off from work yesterday, so I took the opportunity to be a homebody. Just stayed at home, did work on the computer, and caught up on some business (not urgent, but it still needed to get done eventually). I also did some cleaning in the kitchen. Not exactly my favorite thing to do, but it also needs to be done. I cleaned and straightened a number of things, including the counters, microwave oven, table, and especially the stove and sink. (I must be rigorously honest, though. Yes, I still need to wash the floor. It’s in the back of my mind. Nagging. Pestering me. But that’s for another day.)

Some members of my extended family are natural cleaners. Since our family grew up on the northwest side of Chicago, among some Polish immigrants, and since our family has Polish stock in our ancestry, several of my family joke that certain members inherited the Polish cleaning genes. I remember some of the middle-aged and older Polish ladies in the neighborhood, while I was growing up. Their houses would be immaculate. I remember one older lady—I think she was the older aunt or grandmother of the people who owned the house. I’d walk by their garage, a few doors down the alley, and she would be on her hands and knees washing the garage floor. Seriously. No joke cleaning. Well, some of my relatives are almost that thorough.

The verse that I am focusing on in February is 1 John 3:18, “Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” What could be more loving than making certain that my kitchen is a clean and pleasant place to cook and to eat food? And, to sit and read at the kitchen table? I must admit, things do tend to pile up around my house. Mail. Papers. Books. (It is not a large space to begin with.) This is one area that I know I need to work on. God, I get the message. I feel the nudge. Or, nudges, depending on the week. Sometimes I have legitimate reasons why I can’t get to the housework. Work is important, and I have worked some overtime recently. (My husband was pleased about that—so was I.) But sometimes . . . sometimes, I only do the minimum required.

That’s like my internal housekeeping, too. Sometimes, I only do the minimum to keep things spiritually tidy, to get thoughts and ideas internally organized, to get my brain oriented towards things that are useful, or helpful, or worthwhile. Not that I waste a lot of time (since we don’t have cable television or any of the computer-assisted television packages), but I am pleased to say I do not watch hours of reality television. And—I do not miss it! But enough with bashing current trendy culture.

God, I do want to follow You. Be of service. Act in ways that are kind and helpful. Please, help me as I work on cleaning more regularly, each day. Wow, what a way for me to be of service!

@chaplaineliza

Showing Love, Serving in Coffee Hour

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, February 2, 2014

 

tea party

Showing Love, Serving in Coffee Hour

I served others intentionally today. I co-hosted in Coffee Hour at my church. Another way of talking about it is that I showed people love in a concrete, down-to-earth way today.

I wonder—how difficult is it to serve people, on a regular basis? I could ask a few of my relatives. While looking for work doing other things, several of them did work in the service sector. Restaurant servers, cab drivers. As for me, I’ve worked for several years in customer service, and as a caregiver for seniors.

Hosting (actually, serving) in Coffee Hour after church on Sunday is serving, too (except not for pay). I co-hosted with a wonderful couple in my church. Together, we made sure that everything was laid out and ready for everyone to come downstairs and eat. Then, we served the muffins, breads, fruit, and veggies we had set out on the tables. Poured coffee, tea and ice water, too. Since I was the youngest of the three of us hosts, I was more than happy to run back and forth from the church kitchen. Running, fetching things people asked for, getting items forgotten in our rush to get everything ready. Service. An opportunity for me to make things easier for others.

But this is a new month. Thus, I’m concentrating on a different verse from Scripture. Last month was Ephesians 4:32, where I looked for ways to be kind and tenderhearted towards others. This month, I want to seek out ways to show love to others. The verse that I will concentrate on in February is 1 John 3:18, “Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”

By being a host and serving others in Coffee Hour, I tried to show love in truth and action. Certainly a tangible way of making others comfortable, facilitating things, and providing a pleasant atmosphere for people to enjoy some food, friends and conversation after the morning service. I hope I made things easier for a number of seniors, but also for some parents of small children.

I recognize that serving at church (in other words, sticking around a little longer, not running out the door as soon as the postlude starts) is also a way to make closer connections. Service in the church or at other religious organizations helps me make better friends with some people I don’t otherwise know very well. I’ve had any number of opportunities to do this, too. If I should ever need more friends, this is one sure-fire way for me to find them, too.

What a chance for me to get out of myself. Or, to get out of my rut (whatever rut I’m currently in). Or, an opportunity to serve God. However I look at the service in Coffee Hour today, I enjoyed it. I felt good working with the wonderful couple, and being of service to the rest of the congregation. So, a win-win-win situation, all the way around. I was pleased with my morning of service. I think God was, too!

@chaplaineliza