I got word recently that a young man I had met over in AFRICA had unexpectedly passed away. He comes with a story that left a tender mark on me.
I'll not share his story here but the events of his passing made me pause and think.
There was nothing to be done about it. Nothing I could have fixed. And it's just not my season to abandon all and save the planet by serving rurally in a third world country even thought I'd love to.
Still, thoughts swirled and whirled in my head evaluating all that I do and could be doing in my life to make more difference in this great big world of ours.
Those same thoughts were flamed a bit by a few talks given in our last church conference.
ONE introduced the "I was a Stranger" initiative; a call to join efforts with already existing charitable institutions within our neighborhoods as we seek opportunities to serve. THE OTHER, reminded us each of our position as "refugees" in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Seeking relief in the storms of life, we were encouraged once again to engage in righteous causes to assist and lift in our communities.
That fire kindled, I researched nearby and locally accessible relief efforts, refugee families, organizations that could use my hands and my help. I googled non-profits in the town to which we are moving and painted in my mind, glorious visions of dedicating time and talent to their building. I carried long conversations with Newel about futures and humanitarian service mission experiences.
The flurry of life continued and one particular day found me running Grant to a location for his state mandated testing for homeschooling.
We stood in line for registration and I recognized another adult and we engaged in conversation. Grant stood in the line and from the corner of my eye, I saw a girl a bit older than him approach and begin to talk. I couldn't help myself. My attention was suddenly divided between my conversation and straining to hear what this young girl had to say to my son.
I'd briefly been aware of her in the room when we entered, though I hadn't taken much note. She'd clearly made some decisions to alter her natural physical appearance with body art. Her demeanor was clouded and her expression darkened.
I overheard Janie's name mentioned to Grant in the corner of my hearing. I desperately tried to hold my attention to the conversation in which I was engaged. My divided brain raced, trying to make sense of this girl's assumed connection to him. Our moment for registration arrived, she had moved away, and I said goodbye to my friend and turned.
Having retreated, this young woman sat hunched in a corner chair and my eyes swept over her with a moment of recognition. She had been a young friend of Janie's in their second grade year. My mind recalled a couple of play dates, one in particular that left her stranded and parent-less for a great deal of time while we searched for an intoxicated father.
I waved and acknowledged her while waiting briefly for Grant to be called into his testing room. I asked her if she was in the same online program he was in. Was she missing the middle school? Did she intend to return to the high school at some point? Grant was called up and I said it was good to see her and headed to my car to run errands during the four hour testing period.
Reflection brought me back to that time when she'd been Janie's friend. I thought now of the friends Janie had currently. I felt full of gratitude for those great friends and for a path my girl had been drawn down by those associations. And my heart hurt briefly for that lonely teenage girl.
The day wore on and into another where I got kids off to school and faced some quiet time that I could use for a morning devotional.
My mind stretched as I used the silence to self reflect. What other ways could I be "doing"? How could I draw my entire family into these big service project opportunities? Could I dedicate a chunk of time to really get involved? I reached out hungrily for celestial guidance.
At that moment a voice of quiet strength spoke to the very core of my being.
"But what did you do with what I sent you yesterday?"
Memory flickered back to the girl from the day before. What?? .... I'd said hello. I'd carried a pleasing conversation. I'd shared a bit of kindness.
I didn't mean that. I meant the big stuff! Where was the large organization where I could dedicate myself in entirety??
Again I felt it.
"But what did you do with what I sent you yesterday?"
The picture in my mind's eye shifted. I saw that young woman as the scared second grade girl. She was really after all, that same little girl. Could I have been more enthusiastic at our meeting? Could the time have been spent to sit and catch up? A deeper smile? A hug and a connection made?
If I'd been aware, could I have done more? What had I done with what was sent yesterday.
The moment was gone. I'd never get it back. Oh!! Please let me see her again for just one second and do things just a little differently, I pled. But that path had been crossed would probably never be crossed again.
How do we put our vision before us?
I'm not really sure.
It takes practice. And forethought. And presence. And consciousness.
I'm not really good at that. I'm a gal who spends tons of time kicking myself in afterthought. But with more mindfulness and more forward sight, I hope to expand my view. Stop trying to look beyond the mark and ask myself more fully each sunrise,
What can I do with what is sent to me today?