serving with a squeal

As usual, my mind has been working on yesterday’s topic even as I’ve been nearly unaware. Then today as I was reading the Bible, a passage grabbed my attention and brought it all together. I’ll explain.

I have several friends who are currently facing some challenges. Whether it’s unforseen complications in the birth of a baby or the loss of a parent, a friend’s spouse going to the emergency room or another’s spouse being admitted to the hospital in intense pain, these friends would never ask for help, but clearly would benefit from it if only by the encouragement that comes from knowing they were being thought of.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can think, “I can’t do very much, so why bother.” Or, “I don’t want to butt in. What if they really don’t want my help?” Sometimes I’m tempted to talk myself out of helping someone because I think what I’d be able to do is pretty small or insignificant anyway. And then there’s the annoying thought, “I don’t want to be a nuisance.”

Then I remember all the kind things people did for me while I was fighting cancer. Nothing was insignificant. Every act, no matter how large or how small was balm to my aching spirit. Whether it was a friendly card sent to let me know I was in someone’s thoughts and prayers, or a meal brought by so my family could eat; someone picking up groceries for us, or sending flowers, or helping with the cleaning.  It was all very humbling to receive, but nothing was unappreciated or unwanted. No one was a nuisance!

In Matthew 25, Jesus is talking about when he returns to earth and rules. He says he’ll separate the ‘sheep from the goats’  (the real followers from the posers) and the King will say to his followers, “‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’  Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'”

Taking care of people who are in need is a primary value to God. It’s so important to Him that He uses it as a measuring stick to see how serious we are about loving Him. We show our love for Him and to Him through our love and care for even the ‘least’.

A kindness can be as small as giving a drink to a thirsty door to door salesperson on a hot summer day or as large as buying groceries for a family who has lost their income or rounding up furniture for a family whose home burned down.  Sending a card or a meal to someone who’s been ill or visiting lonely people in the hospital or nursing home. Sending money to Haiti and helping far away is as important as helping those nearby. Both are essential.

I can remember visiting a nursing home several times when I was a girl. It always un-nerved me. The sights and smells were foreign to me. They made me uncomfortable. I felt awkward and unsure of how to relate to the old people. I wasn’t used to seeing wheel chairs and tubes and tape on faces and arms. I was so ticked that my parents would make us do that, especially on a Saturday!

One time in particular, my family went to play a little concert at that nursing home.  My mother played the piano, one brother played the trombone and another a trumpet and my older sister the flute. I, the youngest, was learning to play the clarinet at that time, and not very well! My father was leading us as we played a hymn and some of the folks were singing along. Then, horrifyingly,  my clarinet squeaked this loud, unearthly ear-splitting squeal! It was intense!  I halted immediately! My eyes shot open larger than golf balls and my face instantly glowed dark red. A few chuckles blurted from the crowd, and I wanted to crawl out of the room and never go back! To this day, that incident is brought up at family gatherings and there is much laughter all around! Looking back, I’m guessing that squeal probably woke a few people up, and offered more excitement than a professional group! It definitely provided some comic relief!

As much as I disliked visiting there, it let me see people who were lonely and needing a friendly visit. Just seeing fresh young faces was a treat for them. My parents were trying to instill in us, although painfully at times, an awareness of the needs in our community that we were oblivious to.

This all relates back to the greatest commandment and the one second to it: loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and loving our neighbor as our self. That’s the core essence of living. That gives us purpose. It brings us joy. It brings God joy.

Volunteering is freely offering to do or take part in something. It isn’t for pay.  Being a follower of Jesus takes volunteering to another level. It is serving Jesus. There is no motive other than to be helpful and to serve others. It is keeping our eyes open to the needs all around us and responding in little ways and larger ways; helping others as we’d like to be helped when we’re in a tough spot. Even if it includes a clarinet squeal!

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