Monthly Archives: December 2012
Today is Tuesday, four days after our country witnessed a terrifying and history-altering event. It should have been a day like any other day, and in many ways it was. Parents woke to the manic sounds of their alarm clocks, they went in and roused their kids. They pleaded and prodded the little ones out of pj’s and into school clothes as the pint-sized people stopped to play with a special toy, or antagonize their sibling. Boys slicked down and combed their hair, girls scrubbed their faces and donned big pink or blue hairbows…they all gathered backpacks and lunch pails and notes for their teachers, and they left home and rode off to school with a parent or in a yellow schoolbus full of other wiggling little children. Just like any other day…
Then the news came…and the nation stood still… just as we did on the day the Challenger exploded, or foreign planes crashed into the Twin Towers, or John Kennedy was shot. We stood still not believing what we were hearing, not grasping or accepting the images we were seeing as our eyes, glued to the TV, began to blink back the tears until we could hold them back no longer. A 20 year old camo-adorned madman armed with guns and bullets went on a rampage, then killed himself taking with him 6 teachers and 20 innocent children, and a part of our country’s bright future.
Many of the children and teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary were warned before the gunman could enter their classrooms. News reports say someone, maybe the principal who was one of the victims, or perhaps another office person, flipped the switch on the intercom so the entire school could hear the commotion, the ringing and scattering gunshots, the sounds of the victims as they experienced their own terror, and they might escape the same fate by running and hiding until they could be saved. It’s frightening to think about what that sounded like to those listening…but the harsh sounds of those who fell became the sounds of salvation for those who survived.
I didn’t hear the news that day until I returned home from a long day of errands and grocery shopping. I was hosting a company Christmas party the following Monday and so I headed out early…just like any other day…to run a few places, enjoy the bustle of the holiday crowds, then return to a nice warm home and maybe take in a movie on TV or read by the fire till bedtime. I had happened on a yard sale that morning and had gotten a few nice things to resell in my estate business. Among these things was a small divided box, about the size of my palm. It was buried in a box of the old jewelry from the yard sale vendor’s mom. When I took a closer look at the box I was delighted to see it held a tiny nativity set! Each piece was smaller than a dime, and there were 15 compartments for the pieces. One of the compartments was empty, and I was a bit disappointed, but I had to have it when I found out it was only $1.00. I could see the three figures of the main manger scene were all there and I knew that was the most important element. I pushed it down into my other bags, went on to my other errands and arrived home a bit after dark.
My plans for a peaceful evening changed when I saw the news. I sat watching the events unfold and although I was crying and heavy-hearted most of the night, I couldn’t tear myself away from the reporting until sometime very early the next morning. Each child’s face, each mention of a name brought to mind my own grandchildren. I could not imagine how it would feel to wait at the firehouse…wait, and wait…hoping to see your grandchild in the next group, and the next, and the next… and know she was safe because she had been hidden…but then be told that your own small one had not made it into hiding, and she would not be coming home again. I fell into bed exhausted and had a fitful night’s sleep.
The next morning I woke up and started my day with eyes that were still red-rimmed, but I knew I had many things on the list to do. I started with the purchases of the day before and began to put them away and my eyes fell on the tiny nativity set. I decided to set it up in a special place…and as I emptied the compartments of the figures…Joseph and Mary, wise men and donkey…I finally lifted the last piece out. It was the shepherd, and I was so surprised when I saw a teeny little sheep hiding behind the shepherd there. I had not seen this before…the nativity was complete, nothing missing at all!
My granddaughter, Lorelai, is beautiful…she smiles and sunshine emanates from every part of her heart-shaped face. She is smart and quick and we talk about how easily she memorizes and learns and how she will “be somebody” someday. Max and Isaac, the twin boys, are just now developing their own distinct little personalities. But we can already see the way Max investigates and peers at everything as if he is sizing it all up with the intensity of an engineer. Isaac is a squinty-eyed little rascal that captures your heart with one look, and he is very dextrous for his age and will likely be a hands-on worker of some sort.
I was reminded when I looked at the baby sheep in my hand, even with all their possibilities and talents and abilities that may come along as they grow and mature, the only thing that really matters to me is that my grandchildren are all protected and safe. They are in a world of wolves and those who seek to harm and destroy, and just like a tiny sheep, they are vulnerable to physical or spiritual danger. I want to be someone who “flips a switch” in their lives…warning them of the things that are cruel, letting them hear the truth, even when it will be frightening and maybe even harsh at times. Because I know that their only chance of salvation is in hearing and understanding this truth. And just like the tiny little sheep…they too must be found hiding behind the Shepherd.
I have always been a detail-oriented person. Even as a child, I often arranged, then rearranged my room, toys, clothes or what have you until everything was just right. In a freaky kind of way ordering my possessions became a comfort to me. Even now, I can pretty much walk into any area of my home and put my hand right on something I am looking for…as long as I have followed my most natural instinct which is use it, clean it up, store it in its “home” for next time.
Being a detailed person I am always on a schedule, but have prided myself on seeing things people don’t usually see and noticing things that often pass others by in their rush from one place to another, one activity to another. It’s what has made me a great cleaning company owner since I can see dirt that even a customer doesn’t observe in her own home. Beyond this I can also “see” a future need she may have by perceiving the condition of her home on the day of the walk through when we meet for the first time and I view the home. One of the most difficult tasks has been to train my techs and managers to have “eyes to see”. Challenging…but there are those rare times when I have a cleaning tech who meets or even surpasses my own skills in detection. Those are the techs who have garnered a skill for a lifetime…the ability to see the invisible, and they had learned it from my detailed training. So rewarding…
Today was a day of hectic running from place to place. I had several errands and stops to make, but with a list in hand, had made very good progress on a nippy but totally beautiful day. Inside, I was feeling so good about my accomplishment. List was whittling down, the Christmas and food shopping was nearing an end, and I was ready to head to my warm and welcoming bungalow after one more quick stop at a local grocery store. Walking across the parking lot, I was overwhelmed by the loveliness of the day, and deeply breathed in the crisp air making me feel even more alert and aware of everything around me. As I drew near the store’s entrance I glimpsed one of my favorite seasonal sights…the bell-ringing Salvation Army bucket guy. Many of these men and women have fallen on hard times, some are recovering addicts, some once homeless were given a helping hand by this organization, and manning the bucket was a payback of sorts. Taking a regrettable life or circumstance and helping someone turn it into a recovered and reconciled life…what a great ministry to the lost souls and wandering outcasts.
I dug into my pocket and found a dollar to drop in, and then I realized he wasn’t ringing a bell…he was playing the guitar instead. “How cool is that” I thought. My husband, Dwight, had filled our home many times with the sweet strains of an old hymn or long ago ballad, and the sound of an acoustic guitar brings many fond memories to surface when I hear it. How lucky I was to have caught an impromptu Christmas concert today!
The money was shoved into the top of the bucket, followed by the man’s softly uttered “Merry Christmas”. I answered back a return greeting over my shoulder as the automatic doors opened, grabbed a basket and headed to find the items I needed. The one place I didn’t want to be was a busy store as the noon hour approached. As I checked out, I found myself hoping the man was still playing when I left the store so I could maybe catch a little more of the guitar sounds that would put me in a cheery mood.. As I went out of the doors, I glanced over and saw him putting his coat on. He had laid the guitar down and picked up the bell and was walking over to the bucket. I wasn’t going to stop since there was no guitar…that was what I really wanted to hear and see…but as I pushed the basket by I said ” The guitar is different and a nice touch instead of the bell.” “Yes, it is,” he said quietly.” I hadn’t intended to really stop and converse. But something in his voice stopped me and just to be polite for a moment, I held onto the basket and nodded down at the guitar ” Have you been playing long?”. He hesitated, then told me he had played for years and really loved being able to share the guitar with others, ending with ” I love the guitar.” I answered that I do too, told him in a sentence or two that my husband was a player and had a 12 string ovation…then ended the statement with ” We love guitars because they love us back and don’t demand anything from us” as I started to push past him and go to the car. He agreed and as I began to say Merry Christmas once more and head to the car I finally looked up at the man’s face for the first time….and I was quickly moved to tears but fought them back. He had turned away to speak to the next person that came up with money and I realized…I recognized this young man…but I had not noticed that till the very moment I looked into his face. As I drove home, a sadness surrounded me…I recognized him, yes…but I didn’t know him…
How many times have I rushed by someone and not “noticed”? How many times has pride made me think I have it all together, I am a shining example, my life is one to be emulated and admired…when all the time the important things and people and their needs have been overshadowed by my agenda and pitiful and paltry needs? Did I give only to look good to others, for adulation…or was my giving only offered to those who demanded nothing and gave me only adoration and love in return for any bit of attention and time I may bestow on them that “fit the schedule”? What ministry opportunities did I miss when I rigidly stuck to my plan, my schedule and my itinerary rather than taking the time to see the true details of life, and notice the unnoticeable?
Life’s quilt is made of many fabrics…snippets of time, milliseconds of conversations, and enduring patterns of moments whose pieces are sewn together with delicate, and many times self-sacrificing, threads. I think more often than not, we become the delicate threads that are placed in others’ lives to sew them back together, stitching them into the real and truly blessed life they are meant to lead, even when they may have chosen a bargain basement life for themselves instead. But just as sewing in poor light can make you blind, and sloppy stitches make a quilt that will fall apart quickly, it is important to take care of our spiritual eyes and train ourselves to really see. It is just as vital to take the time to make tiny well-placed stitches in the lives of others by the seemingly insignificant gestures we may make because we took the time to see the details in another’s life. The cry for a kindly spoken word, a handshake and quick smile, or other small gesture that will turn a life around will only be seen by those willing to give notice to the unnoticeable.