This week I was the beneficiary of some little kindnesses that impacted me in such a big way I want to share.
Here’s the scene. We were ready to head home from Ohio after a family visit. The drive, with stops, is about 10 hours. We’ve each driven it by ourselves. In more recent years sharing the drive has proved a healthier choice. The problem this time was that Jerry was not feeling well. I felt cautiously optimistic that I could complete the drive home, but still had a few friends join me in prayer.
When packing the van, the hoyer lift always goes in first. I rolled it through the lobby to go out. I noticed a few business men waiting for someone in the lobby. I took the hoyer apart, loaded it into the van and came back in just as this group was leaving. One of the men stepped toward me ever so slightly and looked me right in the eyes and said, “you have a good day.” Odd though it may sound, that small greeting spoke deeply to me. It said he had acknowledged my responsibility and wanted to share a word of kindness with me. It felt like God was saying to me, “I see what you need to do today, I am watching and will be with you.”
The next load was the shower chair and a portable table. As I rolled these items out a different man stopped and asked if I needed any assistance. I’ve done this so long on my own that sometimes assistance is more of a hindrance than a help, and these were easy to pack. I thanked him but told him I had this ok. Again, another small kindness that spoke deeply to my soul on a day when I felt an enormous weight on my shoulders.
I doubt I could ever identify these two men, but I am grateful to them. Likely they will never know the impact their 3 to 5 second phrase made in me. But that’s ok. I know. And God used their kindness to encourage my heart and remind me that I was not doing this trip on my own.
I even had back-seat kindness on the trip – whenever Jerry woke up on he checked in to see if I was ok, and then went right back to sleep. I am glad I could minister to him by letting him rest, and we made it home safely.
I came home grateful, and reminded that it often is the little expressions of kindness and grace we share with someone that matter. We may not ever know if, or how, our words or actions mattered. But Proverbs 3:27 reminds us to do good to others when we have the ability to do so (my paraphrase).
Recently we enjoyed another visit with most of our nieces and one grand niece. The little one, “V” is about 19 months old. Each visit she has become a little more comfortable with her UJ (Uncle Jerry, who she currently calls “UUUUh”). Over her life we’ve seen her grow from cautiously watching him from a distance, to toddling near his wheelchair, to sitting on the back of it (where she thinks he can’t see her) to now stepping up on it and high fiving UJ,and of course admiring the “lights.”.
What was particularly intriguing this visit is that her seemingly warm feelings toward UJ only happened when he was “in his rightful place” – in the corner of the living room by his table. When he is there “all is right in her world.” When we tried to have her interact with UJ in another room or outside, she was adamant (as an almost two year old can be) that life was off kilter.
My propensity to ponder these moments of life showed me a corollary to God. When I allow God His rightful place in my life (on the throne) all is right with my world (even when it may seem on the surface that it is not). When I displace Him from my heart’s throne and put something else there God is not “where He belongs” and my life shows it.
So very thankful for the “littles” (of all ages) in my life who bring me wonderful times of reflection with great joy.
The saying “It takes a village . . .” can be true of much of life. Today as I was driving to Spruce Lake where we will host our first two weeks of Family Retreat for families affected by disability I was so thankful for those in “our village” who make this, and so many other parts of our lives easier.
People like Denise, who I asked to pick up a prescription that wasn’t ready yet before I left and bring it to us at camp when she comes.
Guys like Scott, Roger, and Gary who step in while I am at camp and Jerry is at home to help him get up each morning and to bed at night. Then there’s Ron who comes to camp (hauling much of our equipment) to help Jerry here so I can focus on my role.
Ginny, my sister who said dinner will be provided the night we come home exhausted from two weeks of camp.
Once I pulled into Spruce Lake there was Lucas who offered to carry my suitcase to my second floor room.
And the best thing about our village? They love Jesus, and they know by serving us they are serving Him. Can’t wait to turn some of that love around these next two weeks to serve other families affected by disability at Family Retreat!
“Behold! How they love one another.”
Want to get more of an idea of what happens at Family Retreat? Follow our hashtag #JAFjourney2joy for the next couple of weeks.
As I grow in my understanding of urban ministry I have had to wrestle with the phrase “white privilege.” As I’ve thought about that concept, I came to realize that Jerry and I live with “Disability Privilege.”
Friends, or those we meet, often comment on how much we are “on the go.” The unspoken remainder of the sentence is “especially for someone with disability.” Though some courageous commenters will ask “how do you do it? Can you get an wheelchair on a train/plane or whatever means of conveyance we are awaiting?”
I don’t typically think about what we do as anything special or unusual, it’s just our life. We travel several times a year for the ministry, both within our region and across the country. We try to get away a couple of times a year for some vacation or rest time – we’ve spent that time driving around the US, relaxing at the beach, visiting family, hosting family, cruising to Alaska and some points in the Caribbean (different trips – ha!). And we make sure we get to a number of baseball games each year and other local events.
We have a number of friends who live life affected by disability and travel even more extensively, but honestly, we are part of a very small group. The larger number of people affected by disability in this world struggle to get an appropriate wheelchair, support services, housing they can afford and maintain, reliable attendant care or transportation so they can secure a job.
Even on our worst days about 90% of people with disabilities around the world would love to have the “privilege” of working through our challenges. It’s good for me to be reminded that we are blessed beyond measure. Not because of anything about who we are, but because of the graciousness of our God. It doesn’t even mean God loves us more than those who struggle – He doesn’t. What it does mean is that we have the opportunity to use the blessings God has given us to bless others. That is a fun and exciting challenge in which to participate.
To Whom Much is Given, Much is Required. Luke 12:48
Jerry and I thoroughly enjoyed a recent visit with one of our nieces and her daughter (V). They live out of the area, and though we FaceTime pretty regularly the little one is still young enough that she needs time to reconnect and remember us each time. Thankfully this time we had enough time together for V to really feel comfortable with us.
Over FaceTime she is a big fan of Uncle Jerry (UJ); but seeing him face to face was a little more intimidating at first. She would stand at a distance from him and just stare at the lights on his chair. Then she’d move a little closer and touch his foot rest until finally she gained the confidence to accept his invitation to step on his chair and let him give her a ride (which of course she loved!).
From that point on whenever Uncle Jerry left the room, V wanted to follow him. When she couldn’t she would point in the direction he went and babble on, seemingly asking where he went. Usually my response was to the effect, “yes, UJ went there, but he is coming back, I promise.”
As I said that to her a few times the similarities to my walk with God struck me.
I can hear about God or read about him, but until I get face to face with Him my relationship is not as real as it could be.
I can be in awe of God’s holiness to the point that I miss the personal invitation He gives for me to come to Him and lean on Him and find my rest in Him.
Sometimes I want a little bit of God on my terms, for example – “If you would just help me with this area that would be fine, I’ll handle the rest.” I want to “touch his footrest” as it were, but not get too much closer!
I am NEVER alone, and God never leaves me. But He will fulfill His promise to come back. That’s even more sure than UJ coming back to see V!
I will miss V and her mommy when they go home and look forward to our next visit. So thankful that now I can delight in a 14 month old and gain some incredible reminders from hanging out with her.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14 NIV