Over the last couple of weeks, I've had the privilege of being able to reach out and help some friends in a real, tangible way with some problems they've been going through. Along with some of the best girlfriends in the world, we've helped a few friends who were dealing with illnesses and some other "stuff" going on in their lives. We made meals, made phone calls, put together some goodie boxes, wrote some notes, helped out with gas money.
I'm not saying this to toot my own horn at all (because, oh my goodness, there is SO much more of this I need to do on an everyday basis!), but to just remind us all that THIS is what we are put in this world to do.
The human experience...this living on earth...is really only as meaningful as our actions toward others. I really don't believe we're put here to gain more "things," to have joy only for ourselves. We are here to reach out and lend a helping hand, to help others make it through life a little more easily, to SHARE the joy.
What surprises me sometimes is that some people have never been shown such kindnesses. One of the ladies we helped this past week had been in the hospital for some heart problems and we put together several meals for her husband and son. When we delivered the food one day, the husband said something to the effect of, "Who's doing this for us?" He seemed surprised by what we were doing. We explained and then later asked our friend what kind of help they'd received in the past (years ago, they'd had house fires and lost two children). She said they'd never been reached out to that way. That just shocked me. Aren't communities and friends and churches supposed to rally around and help out people in need?
I know I'm blessed for a couple of reasons in this regard.
First off, I was raised by parents who are very "others"-minded. They always taught me that it was our job--since we had more than others--to lend a helping hand. Some of my fondest and strongest memories of growing up revolve around the every Sunday visits we would take after church to two families and one older man. My parents were on our church's benevolence committee and part of their job was to deliver food every Sunday afernoon.
We had two families that we visited very week and we really got to know them. They had such joy when we came with our delivery and I think they sensed that we were doing this out of love and service, and not in any sort of condescending way. We were simply reaching out to others in our community.
We also visited Mr. Duncan for at least three years. He lived by himself (not sure where his children were) in a tiny one-room apartment. He loved when we visited and would sit and talk with my brother and I, giving us candy and telling us stories. He lived on a very fixed income, so one of my greatest joys ever was when he gave me a stuffed bunny rabbit for Christmas one year. He had thought enough of me to buy me a gift, even though he certainly couldn't afford it. I still have that rabbit--which I named Duncan--becuase it symbolizes those lessons I learned at home.
My parents always taught me that we reach out to friends, family, community members, strangers, even people around the world (my Mom, in fact, gave me as one of my birthday gifts a sponsorship for a community in Africa that struggles with malaria; in my name, she bought five nets that help filter the water system, which in turn helps battle malaria). It is one of the most important lessons ever taught me, and it's something I try and teach my children as well.
I am also blessed because I live in a part of the country where we naturally respond to people in this way. I know there are caring people all over the world, but there is something about the South. If we find out someone is sick, in the hospital, or dealing with a death...we start cooking! I probably help make a meal at least once a month for someone! The casserole dish is our way of helping people through their struggles. (Hey, food helps a lot!!)
Just a week or so ago, my parish minister told me something that I wrote down and underlined as soon as I heard it. He said, "Christianity is not about privilege. It's about service." ALL people need to be servants; it's obviously not a Christian-only thing and we see kind-hearted people in all faiths. But, as a Christian myself, I need to understand that this is the MOST integral part of my belief system. Being a Christian is not a privilege to brag about or to be puffed up about or to expect others to admire us for; it's ONLY about service. It's about reaching out, helping out, serving others...because we have been loved so much and we can't help but pass it on.