Thanks for Being Rude…no, really, Thanks.

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On Saturday I had the opportunity to join with friends and strangers to pack and deliver Thanksgiving food items to five families in a very poor city in NJ. I’ve written about it here, Loving with My Eyes Wide Open. This post is not so much a follow up as it is a reflection on one particular aspect of the day’s deliveries.

Nine of us, three adults and six children, piled into a 12 passenger van with our boxes full of frozen turkey and gravy, cans of green beans and boxes of stuffing and miscellaneous other items, and headed to our first address. It was like the weirdest treasure hunt ever.

It seemed best if everyone stayed in the vehicle and I went alone to knock on doors to make sure someone was at home before opening the van and allowing the children out. Sadly, we struck out at Home #1. Not to be deterred, we plugged another address in to the GPS and off we went with high hopes for better results.

After knocking on the door of Home #2 a few times, I heard a man’s voice call through the broken front window, “Who’s out there?!”

“I’m here from Seeds of Hope. I have a turkey and some Thanksgiving food to deliver.” I shouted back.

I heard some shuffling inside and the door was opened to reveal an older woman. When I told her who I was and why I was there, she broke down and said, “Praise Jesus,” and I called in the children.

The six kids happily spilled out of the van like clowns out of a clowncar and grabbed the frozen turkey, roasting pan and the box of goodies from the back. Everyone needed to carry something to the front door, even the four year old. He walked up to the house carrying a bag of mini-marshmallows in the crooks of his elbows like a Wise Man presenting a box of frankincense to Jesus.

How uplifting! What a wonderful experience!

We piled back into the van and rushed back to the home base for another address. This is great!

Home #3, however, was a somewhat different experience. As we pulled up to the row home there was a woman standing on the porch. Maybe she was waiting for us. Maybe she just recognized a large van full of middle class white people driving around town the weekend before Thanksgiving as most likely being Thanksgiving Meal Deliverers. Whatever the reason, I was just happy someone was home and I stepped out of the van to speak with her. I explained who I was and why I was there and she nodded. I called in the kids. Once again they enthusiastically piled out of the van and elbowed each other out of the way to be the first to carry the goods to the lady on the porch.

She never cracked a smile. Her “thank you” was begrudgingly given and her attitude was anything but friendly. Although she didn’t protest about the food, I sort of felt like I was the delivery guy for the supermarket – Hey Lady, here’s your Thanksgiving dinner. Thanks for your order.

This second experience was vastly different than the earlier one. Everyone felt it. We sat silently in the car for a moment after loading back in and seven-year-old Asher finally commented, “She had a lot of beer caps in her yard.” 

As the day went on we were blessed to deliver three more meals and received varying responses to the deliveries, some quietly grateful, others exuberant and heart-wrenching (like the one with the little boy with a medical device inserted in his throat.) But none held a candle to the response of the lady at Home #3. Memorable. Extraordinary. Unforgettable.

In hindsight, as I reflected on the day, I have one thing I’d like to say to the woman in Home #3. Thanks for being rude…no, really, Thanks. 

You see, her attitude reminded me of others who were presented with a much more marvelous gift and responded, not with gratitude, but with rudeness, hate, disdain and ignorance. Jesus. On the cross. Making a way for sinful, hopeless humanity to once again be with God. Emmanuel, God With Us. And what has been the response to this most excellent gift over the centuries? Gratitude, yes, thankfully, occasionally, yes; but much more often, the response to this gift is rudeness, hate, disdain and ignorance.

So, Ms. Home #3, thank you for being rude. I don’t know what was going on in your heart or your life on Saturday and I am not judging you. I was as blessed (maybe more) to deliver to you as to any other and we were seeking no praise or gratitude anyway. Yet your response impressed our children so deeply that it allowed me to organically and practically speak to my children on the drive home about the truth of God’s love for us, even, and especially, when we don’t deserve it. Thank you also for the opportunity to remind them (and me) of the many who view God’s love with anything but a grateful heart. I think they understand a little better now. Happy Thanksgiving.

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death. Life, Living, Everlasting Life and ETERNITY

It’s Sunday afternoon and my neighbor was found dead this morning. This is not the first paragraph of a crime novel, it really happened.

A little after 8:00 AM I was on the way to the basement to get the clean laundry so we’d have something to wear to church. As I passed through my office at the front of the house I noticed police lights flashing outside and that an officer was walking toward my neighbor’s door. As I moved in for a closer look out the window I saw the body of my neighbor lying in the rain next to the trash and recycling buckets.

I ran through the kitchen and opened the front door and saw that poor Bill was not passed out as I hoped, but that he was dead in a puddle of water.

Let me pause to explain our bizarre living situation. I live in a 120 year old Victorian that at some point mid-century was divided into two apartments and offices. This unique division means that several parts of the house are inevitably shared living. So Bill was not a “far-away” neighbor but a man I saw and spoke with almost daily. The door to the basement which led to the clean laundry that we were about to wear to church, was in his kitchen.

In fact, I was the last one, to my knowledge, to speak to Bill, in person at least. The oven in my kitchen has been broken for months and it has just been easier to come downstairs and use Bill’s oven for all my baking and cooking needs. He didn’t mind, he never used it. Last night I was pulling out pork chops and baked potatoes and Bill came stumbling in from outside.

He was in his late sixties, a life-long smoker and was deeply depressed. He was alone in the world except for a daughter and a ninety year old father. Last week my dad and brother had to call Bill’s family to look in on him because it was clear to those of us who saw him on a daily basis that he was unwell, not eating and fading away. This wintery winter had been hard on him.

His daughter took him for a full check-up last week and the report was good. Bill even perked up for a few days! But last night he was not right. Dizzy. Unstable. I helped him to his seat and talked with him a bit. I asked if the medicine was making him dizzy and he said it did. I told him to call me on my cell phone if he needed me, I would come.

That’s the last time we spoke.

After the events of this morning I wish I had called my dad last night to come and check on Bill. In hindsight, I would have done things differently, yet I will live with my decision. He had been so weak for so long that his appearance was not as alarming as it should have been to me.

I am saddened that his body had to be found outside in the rain by a passerby. I am sad that he seemed to have nothing to live for and chose to fade away.

I am glad that his body was found on a Sunday morning and not a weekday when my children would have been walking to school and witnessed it. I’m thankful he died in an open place where he was found and not in his bed so that after a few days myself or my brother (who works here) would have smelled his remains.

This is raw. And this is honest.

Bill did not have a relationship with the Healer of Hearts, Jesus Christ.  That is the saddest news of all.

His death, as with all situations of this kind, has opened a door of conversation with my own children about life, living, everlasting life and eternity, so I will treasure and nurture these conversations. If there is only one glimmer of sweetness in this tragic, bitter end, those conversations are it.

death

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(E for Eternity & Everlasting Life)

 

PS – this was written last Sunday.

ALMIGHTY

 

The Word is: Mighty

A few moments ago before opening the (secret) word for Five Minute Fridays I was considering how I would go about cloning myself.

They’ve made movies about this, and I remember a whole bunch of stuff about sheep or goats in the news several years ago, but the fact is, some days I need another me (this seems to be a theme I return to once a month or so…link here)

This is one of those days.

Am I mighty? Eh. Sometimes on a Monday morning when I get a massive amount of stuff done, I feel mighty. But on most days, like today, when I spend the precious moments before school trying to get my kindergartner to complete her week’s worth of homework in one shot (due today), I’m not feeling the might so much.

And just to be TOTALLY random, Mighty Mouse is my favorite cartoon ever. The original ones. I think I might have even been in love with him, and I realize that’s weird.

mightymouse xo

It comes down to this. I! am not mighty. Not even a little bit, and for that – I am thankful.

If everything were peachy everyday and I had everything I needed and I didn’t have to work my butt off all the time, I’d probably think I was pretty mighty – and that right there is a slippery slope to self-sufficiency. I hope I never get there. That’s pretty scary to write, but I’ve been to that terrifying place where I was just hanging on by a thread of a string and the AlMIGHTY was there.

I saw Him when I was in desperate need.

My self-sufficiency hides Him from view.

5minutefriday

 

This was written for Five Minute Fridays where you write on a specific word for only 5 minutes, click for link.