Monday, June 7, 2010

Cords of Kindness

Flickr photo by DeaPeaJay , creative commons
"I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them."
Hosea 11:4, NRSV

Melissa was a homeless woman, living in a Sunday school room in our church with her three kids for one week as part of our participation in the Greenville Area Interfaith Hospitality Network. I was her host for the evening, and it was my first time.

I was a little nervous, to be honest.
Still, I couldn't just hide in the host room. Todd had offered to take her kids down to the gym with our three, and I could already hear them laughing and talking and having a big time.
I stepped into the hallway, took a few steps toward her door, then darted back to the host room, a scared bunny rabbit.

What was wrong with me? I believed in the program. I really did.
Our church had plenty of room, and I was all for offering it a few times a year to homeless families struggling to get back on their feet. I'd worked with homeless kids before and loved every exhausting minute of it. So what was the problem?

It wasn't the kids. It was the mom.
Kids were easy, but how would I relate to a homeless mom?
She had the door closed anyway. Maybe she didn't want interaction.

I could knock, but would she want to talk? And if she felt like it, what would we talk about?
I didn't want to intrude or make her think I was getting in her business, but I didn't want to ignore her either.
Enough of this, I thought. It's her first night at our church, and by golly, she's going to feel welcomed.

I was just getting ready to knock when her door opened.
"Well hi there," she laughed.
"Hi. I was just...uh... coming by to see if you needed anything."
"Oh, thanks. I don't think so. This room is so nice. It's going to do just fine."
"I'm glad," I said.
We looked at each other for a moment.
"I'm just getting settled," she said, returning to her chore, taking the kids' clothes out of her plastic trash bag, folding them, and setting them on a table. "But if you feel like talking, I'd be happy to have some company. Here," she said, pulling a plastic chair off the stack beside her. She patted the seat. "Come on in and let's talk while I put our things away."

I was supposed to be her host, but as she welcomed me into her bedroom, moving a suitcase out of my way, I felt like the guest of honor.
But I still wasn't sure what to say.

"This is a nice church," she said. "Have you been going here long?"
It was an easy question, and soon I relaxed and we were chatting away. We talked about our kids and where they go to school. She told me about the kerosene fire in her rental house, and how her ex-husband was incarcerated, and even though they'd been divorced a while, her youngest son still cries for him. She told me about the fund-raising program in her home church, how on the big dedication day all the church members were going to walk down the aisle with their pledges, wearing the different colors of the rainbow, celebrating God's promise.

Before I knew it, three and a half hours had passed and I was sad to leave. She'd been so kind to me, and we'd enjoyed each others' company. We had so much in common, really, both mothers, caring about our children and trying our hardest to make a good life for ourselves and for them, a life that pleases and honors God. Both making tons of mistakes along the way.

Now, three years later, I'm still thankful for Melissa's kindness. My experience with her made me want to volunteer again and again. She taught me just to be myself with other homeless women and men, and because of that, I've had the privilege of hearing many stories of grace, courage and deep, abiding faith in the face of dire circumstances.
I have no doubt that as Melissa reached out to me, her kindness became one of those cords used by God, pulling me along, leading me toward joy.

I'm so thankful that God doesn't yank us through our days on a leash, as if we're dogs, or string us along like a heavenly puppeteer. How marvelous that the Holy Spirit can work through the kind actions and words of those around us, fanning them, like a mysterious perfume that piques our senses, a scent that we can't help but follow.

How wonderful that in every loving gesture of a friend or stranger, God is lifting us to his cheek, nuzzling us, whispering His love in our ears, nourishing us with soul food.
It makes me want to pull my head out of my calendar and make sure I'm ready to be kind.

So many of you have been God's nourishment to me, whether you know it or not. Thank you!
I'd love to hear about a kindness you've experienced lately, big or small. Do you feel like God's rope--or just a bunch of loose threads? :)

Have a wonderful Monday, y'all!
Love, Becky


Rosemary said...

Hi Rebecca,
That is a wonderful post.
I think I would feel the same way you did. It all works out though, doesn't it?
You have a great week,

CC said...

Wonderful thoughts. I too get very nervous at times that I just need to let go and let God

Ed Pilolla said...

it is a fabulous story. and that you told it as humbly as you did is a reflection of your evolved place in life. the marginalized constantly surprise us with their generosity and hospitality. she as you host is a remarkable insight by you. thanks for this.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I think it's great that God gave you that personality that makes others feel at home. You were ears and friendship to her.

❦TattingChic said...

That's really sweet, Becky!
~TattingChic ♥

ToddR said...

Thanks for this post Becky. It was a moment of peace in the middle of our hectic days.

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Rebecca, I've added you to my blog list -- those are the ones I really want to keep track of. :) I feel like I've discovered a kindred spirit when I look at your blog. It's almost a little eerie. You have a lovely way of expressing your thoughts and I am so glad we've crossed paths. What a blessing!

As for the kind act, it would have to be my in-laws' offer to have our kids visit in intervals over the summer. I cannot describe how it felt this year to start out summer vacation without the usual difficult transition. It just didn't happen. Instead it was peace-filled. Grace. I could feel it in abundance and I am ever so grateful!

Have a wonderful rest of the week. Will look forward to more of your posts. God is using you and you are responding well.

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Hi Rosemary, it did work out, and I'm so glad. Moms like Melissa have taught me so much about faith.

CC, that's the trick isn't it. It sounds so easy, but it's really hard.

Hey Ed, thank you, but I'm not sure that it was my insight as just the way it felt. :)

GG, it was a gift to be there. She was friendship to me too.

Hi TC, or as my husband calls you, that tattling chick. Ha ha.

Speaking of my husband, why there you are. Love you. And you're right. It was a moment of peace, even if it was peace with loud happy noisy kids.

Roxanne, I felt the same way over at your place. I look forward to getting to know you better!
I'm so glad your inlaws gave you that gift. And I'm glad you mentioned the tough days of transition. It's true for us too. We always have a few days where everyone is a little out of sorts, until we get our summer legs under us. :)

Fete et Fleur said...

Wonderful story! I've learned so much from those who have little material possessions in their lives. These people are often the most generous and giving of themselves, and what little they have. Just like Melissa.

God is so good! He is a gentle teacher.


Rebecca Ramsey said...

Nancy, it's so true. Seems like the people who have the least are most likely to give the most--no wonder they're considered blessed.
Hugs back to you!

Amy Sullivan said...

I love that you got out of your comfort zone...oh, that is so hard to do sometimes. Good encouragement for the day.

Amy Sullivan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rebecca Ramsey said...

Thanks, Amy!

Cathy said...

Ok, I found out about your blog through a friend on Revgals. You are one of my new favorite blogs now...