Monday, June 30, 2014

Never Too Old to Learn from Mom

Yesterday, I learned that I am never too old to learn from my mother. When I was a child, she taught me life skills and boundaries and as I grew older, she taught me to explore and stretch those boundaries. Here I am in my forties and she in her ‘very mature adulthood’ and we’ve begun the transition that happened between every child and adult at this time in our lives where I lean less on her and she leans more on me. But that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have a lot to give and I that don’t have a lot to learn.

We were in the car in a long line of cars inching our way out of a downtown parking garage when the back-up lights of a second parked car in two minutes shown bright signaling their hope to pull out of their space in front of us in line. My mom, a very patient woman, was happy to let them out in front of us. She told me that every morning she prays that God would give her an opportunity to serve him and she figured this was one of those opportunities. Little did we know then that God had a much bigger job lined up for her just half an hour later.

It had been a very busy day and I’d only enough time to eat a couple of pieces of cantaloupe for lunch before heading off for the show with my mom. It was 5:30 p.m. now and I was starving so we picked up Chinese take-out on the way to my apartment complex. As we turned onto my street, we saw a very elderly man heavily leaning on a young man’s arm. The elderly gentleman didn’t look well so we stopped the car and asked if we could help. The young man told us that he was at the corner convenience store and the old man asked if he would help him get back to his apartment. The older gentleman had fallen in the parking lot and we could see he had a bloody elbow. (Quite frankly, this man was so frail I don’t know how he walked down the hill to the convenience store in the first place.) It took three of us to ease him into the car and Mom drove him up the hill to his apartment building. Again, it took all three of us to get him up the steps of his building and then up the steps to his apartment. It was slow going and the man had to rest for a while before tackling that last staircase.

The harshness of life had etched deep lines on this man’s face. At one point, as my mom was standing behind him steadying his balance with her hands on his waist, he told her not to stand so close because he had messed his pants. My mom smiled and told him in her most loving voice, “That’s okay. We’re not worried about that. We’re just worried about getting you home.” He kept apologizing when he had to sit down on the steps for taking up our time and she told him not to worry. “Take your time. When you’re ready, we’re here.” I watched her help this man up the stairs in amazement. My mom is handicapped and needs help on staircases herself and yet, she had a quiet strength supporting this man up every step. She asked him four times if there was someone we could call and he told us no. He had no one. He was all alone. We got him to his chair and noticed from the soiled newspaper on the chair that he was in need of more permanent help. We bid him good bye and all three walked out. We gave the young man his bag and offered to take him home. He said no and took off.

I need to stop the story right here for a moment and tell you something that I’m a little ashamed of. The whole time we were helping this older man, my heart wasn’t completely in it. You put me in a room with a bunch of grieving people or abused children and my whole heart is poured out for their pain without a thought. But other people’s physical pain and older people’s disabilities are hard for me (except when it comes to mom—then I don’t even think about it). As I said, I was starving and I was anxious to get home and get changed out of the dress I had been wearing all day and get into a pair of shorts and t-shirt. Not to mention that I spent the entire weekend surrounded by people and my introverted battery was seriously blinking away for a recharge. The whole time, my compassion was being beset with thoughts of the Chinese take-out and the purses we left locked in the car outside the building. I kept tripping on my dress on the way up the stairs and thinking how much easier this would have been in shorts. I was feeling guilty because Mom was helping him up the steps and I was carrying his jacket and bag—She very protective of my herniated discs issue. I wish I could say that God’s Spirit moved in me and I was full on compassion for this man and his situation, but I would be lying.

After he was in his apartment and Mom drove me to my front door, she told me she was going back and calling 911 for an ambulance because it was the right thing to do. I asked her if she wanted me to wait with her and she told me it was up to me. On the way down the stairs to my apartment (to put my delicious smelling dinner in the refrigerator) I was still arguing with myself. But in the end, I wasn’t going to let my mother wait out there alone. So I changed clothes quickly and ran back out to her car. EMS came as I was bringing her some water and we directed them to the man’s apartment. A neighbor appeared and explained that he hasn’t had anyone visit him in over a year. He has no family in town and his son who lives in another state stopped calling because the man is hard of hearing and wasn’t answering the phone. She tries to look in on him every once in a while, but thought he was away because his car wasn’t in the parking lot. As mom and I were walking down the steps to her car, she smiled and said, “I’m so happy that the Lord gave me something to do for him today.”

That’s the moment when I realized that she was teaching me a new lesson—How to live for and love Christ in strangers. I imagine that Timothy also struggled with selfish thoughts as Paul taught him how to live for Christ and be a leader in the Church. As I contemplate on this moment, I realize that my thoughts were trying to draw me away from the miracle Jesus was bringing into my neighbor’s life through my mom’s obedience and compassion and I didn’t let them. I thought those things, but I knew what I was doing was more important and put my will, my desires, aside for God’s will and desire. God isn’t unhappy with me because I had selfish thoughts. Next time I face a situation of selfish thoughts vs. God’s will, I think it will be easier for me to put aside those thoughts and the time after that—maybe they won’t occur at all. Being a follower of Christ isn’t a magic trick – Abracadabra, you’re a mature disciple. It’s a growth process and yesterday, God gave my mom an opportunity to serve, me an opportunity to grow, and my elderly neighbor – and answer to his prayer for help in the form of an angel and her daughter (and a young man none of us knew).

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