Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It's Not My Responsibility - Right?

I had another interesting experience today - one that I would have handled very differently last month than this month.

I woman living in Covington somehow called one of the women who works in our office - on her personal cell phone, which is not listed or connected in any way to our business. She isn't looking for services, but instead is looking for a bed. She is legally blind (can see a little), and she just had to get rid of her mattress. She has been sleeping on the floor; there is a shortage of available furniture through the regular United Way source; she wondered if we could help her get a bed.

We can't - not directly. I knew that when I spoke with her, so I gave her the phone number for the office in Northern Kentucky that serves her area. When I hung up, I couldn't get her out of my mind - and something hit me like a ton of bricks.

She had told the woman in our office that she didn't know how she had gotten that phone number - that it must have been "the grace of God". I have no idea how she got it, but I did know that there was one thing that I could do just in case it really was the grace of God.

I am going to figure out how to get the phone number for the Bishop in Covington and explain the situation to him. If the Lord really did have a hand in getting this woman connected to me, I will have given her comfort that cannot be found anywhere else. If not, at least I did not walk away from an opportunity to comfort someone who definitely stands in need of comfort.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

An Arm Around Her Shoulder and a Hug

I spoke in the Western Hills ward on Sunday, and stayed for the entire block of meetings in order to fulfill a particular assignment from the Stake Presidency. As I was standing in the hallway prior to Priesthood meeting, I noticed one of the sisters I know crying almost hysterically and being comforted by two other sisters. I found out that this sister lost a grandson last week in a particularly difficult way to accept.

Seeing that she was being comforted by others, I started to walk away - but I was struck by my resolution this month. This was exactly the type of situation I had resolved to seek, so I walked over and gave her a hug - and ended up helping to escort her to an empty room, then finding the Relief Society president and helping to arrange for continued help throughout the rest of the meeting schedule.

I was struck by a few things:

1) We shouldn't limit our comforting and mourning to only those situations where no one else is around to provide it (or for only the short time after it initially is needed). Even if it appears that "everything is being taken care of" (or has been taken care of) we still should give whatever we can - even if it only ends up being a token of the fact that we really do care. People who are grieving or mourning or need comfort need to know that everyone around them cares about them; getting help from only the first few who happen to see the need simply isn't enough. In a very real way, mourning and comforting is ideally a community activity - not just one that is isolated to a few.

2) I really don't know if my actions will have a lasting impact on this sister; I do believe they will have a lasting impact on me - and that is not an unimportant thing. It is not selfish to want to feel how I felt as I helped her; it is a good thing.

3) This sister called me yesterday to thank me for being willing to step outside my role as a visiting High Counselor and help her simply in my role as a friend and brother. I hadn't looked at it that way as I hugged her, but I am moved by that statement. There is too much formality and structure sometimes to how we interact with each other. Sometimes we simply need a hug and a shoulder upon which to cry.

I continue to be amazed at how the Lord helps me see opportunities to fulfill my resolutions, when those resolutions are focused on becoming more like Him. I am leaving for Houston on Friday; I am looking forward to whatever I will be able to do and learn there.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Our Father Knows Us Better Than We Realize

Our best friends in Alabama - our closest friends in our married life - called today to give us an update on their lives. When we finished crying, I immediately thought of how well the Lord knows us - so much more than we sometimes realize.

To understand, you need to know Dave and Sybil. They are from Panama; she is half Hispanic, with all the stereotypes of gregariousness and gaiety that come with that heritage; they were high school sweethearts; they have been married for about 25 years; they are only a few years older than Michelle and I; they are adult converts; they have seven children; he is hard-working, humble, self-deprecating, highly intelligent, patient, thoughtful and sincere; she is one of the funniest, most charming, outgoing, bubbly, spontaneous individuals this world has ever seen. She lights up the world around her wherever she goes. It is impossible to be down around her. She is energy and light and joy incarnate.

She has leukemia.

She was diagnosed last year - a total shock to everyone. For the last year, she has been receiving chemo in AL and Houston, TX. The treatments seemed to be working, but they learned yesterday that the cancer has come back. She has been given a 30% chance of recovery.

I talked with Dave this morning, and he told me the news. He also shared a few thoughts that humbled me - and helped me realize again how well Heavenly Father knows His children.

He received a blessing years ago that he remembers vividly to this day. He was sick and asked me to give him a blessing. In that blessing, he was told that he would be healed miraculously - and that he would recognize it as it happened. He said that following the blessing he literally could feel the illness evaporating from his body - in a tangible way that he cannot forget. That experience taught him clearly that miraculous healings can occur.

They also faced the very real possibility of losing their youngest daughter during her first few years. During that time, she received a blessing, and, while she was not promised healing, the blessing left them with a peace that they couldn't describe. They knew that whatever happened would be God's will - and they knew that if their daughter died they would mourn her loss but have the reassurance that they would see her again. She survived the ordeal, but he learned another, separate lesson about the power of the Priesthood.

All of this brings me to this morning. This humble man told me that he had never forgotten the blessing I had given him (that he had received through me) so many years ago, and as he considered his wife's condition he had the distinct impression to see if I could join him in Houston in a couple of weeks to give Sybil a blessing. He knew I cannot afford it right now, so he told me he would pay all the expenses - even though her illness has sapped their reserves. He told me that he was not expecting a miraculous healing - just that he wanted to do everything in his own power and then turn it over to the Lord, trusting again that whatever happened (whatever was promised in the blessing) would be His will. He told me, "I want my wife to live, but if that is not His will, I want to feel the same peace I felt when my daughter almost died. If I have done all I can do, I can turn it over to Him and accept whatever He chooses."

Dave has no idea whatsoever that my resolution this month is to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort. He has no idea that part of that resolution is to seek out and pray for opportunities to give Priesthood blessings to those who need them. He has no idea that his request gives me this special opportunity in the exact month of this very specific resolution. He does not know what this taught me today. I will share it with him in a couple of weeks, but he has no idea how grateful I am for this lesson.

God knows my resolution. He knows me more intimately than I can imagine or understand. I know my New Year's Resolution for this year was inspired, but I wonder today if He gave me that inspiration in advance - knowing this is the first New Year's Resolution I have made in many, many years - knowing that my friends would need to make this call - knowing that I would need to understand more fully that He knows me completely and intimately - knowing that I would need the extra assurance from a grieving husband that he is confident that whatever I say in a few weeks will be God's will. It is humbling to be taught such a lesson in such a situation, by someone who should be receiving comfort but is giving it in a way he cannot understand. I simply hope and pray that I can provide the same type of comfort to them that I received today from them - that our Father knows us and is mindful of us and has a more active role in our lives than we often realize. With that knowledge comes peace - and that is what Dave and Sybil need so desperately right now.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Mourning With Those Who Mourn

My resolution for this month is to look for ways to mourn with those who mourn - then mourn with them. I am adding something that goes hand in hand - comforting those who stand in need of comfort.

Two things have hit me thus far as I have thought about this resolution:

1) This one does not come as "readily" as becoming more poor in spirit. There are things all around me on a daily basis that challenge my resolve in developing humility. I can't avoid them; fulfilling my resolution for last month was more of a challenge to recognize those things and act more humbly as they swirled around me. Mourning with those who mourn and comforting those who stand in need of comfort, however, requires identifying those who are mourning and those who need to be comforted. It will require much more "seeking" than merely "(re)acting".

2) My field of employment (providing care for the elderly and infirm) should lend itself to this resolution, but I am not working in the part of this industry that actually provides that care. Michelle is doing so as an inherent part of her job, but I am separated from that hands-on care in most of what I do.

Due to these two "obstacles", I have determined to do three things:

1) Pray for opportunities to hear of situations where someone needs a Priesthood blessing - where I can exercise the Priesthood in a very direct way to comfort those who stand in need of comfort. As part of this commitment, I also need to take more time when I am asked to give a blessing and focus on finding out what is making them mourn while I am there to give them a blessing. (I already have had one opportunity tonight, and I will be blessing a non-member this week who will be passing away soon. She accepted the offer readily and graciously. I have had some interesting impressions in preparing for that blessing, and I'm sure it will be a very spiritual experience.)

2) Dedicate more of my time in my own job to the type of field work that puts me in more regular contact with those who need our service. It is interesting that this gels perfectly with my impressions lately to focus more of my own time on canvassing door-to-door to introduce our company and its services directly to the people who might need it. That focus has been becoming clearer over the last month, but it crystalized just recently - just as this new month arrived with my new resolution. It's interesting, to say the least.

3) Volunteer at companies, organizations and facilities that serve those who mourn and need comfort. In particular, I have felt impressed to offer to sing and play the piano at nursing homes in some of my spare time - to provide a tangible form of comfort that will not require extensive practice and can be done at a moment's notice.

In order to accomplish this resolution to any significant degree, I will need to focus even more regularly and actively seek out opportunities. I am looking forward to this month and this effort.

PS. As Shayleen hinted at in her comment, mourning with those who mourn and comforting those who stand in need of comfort does NOT necessarily include "fixing" or "solving" anything. In fact, it implies sharing grief and discomfort specifically when there is no solution or fix - when all you can give is your time and your ear and your heart.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

I Can Sleep Soundly Tonight With a Smile on My Face

The New York Giants beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl: 17-14!!

My house is very noisy right now.