a disclaimer: This was my last paper I was required to write for the Benevolence class I took this past month. I decided I wanted to share my experience of service at Restore and the nursing home we visited that day... Hence this post.
There is no way to adequately describe the joy that I was able to experience this past Saturday as I helped serve the community of Cleveland with my fellow classmates. The joy that overcame me was not one that was an automatic given, it was one that was chosen, and then embraced throughout the day. I chose to embrace this joy as I inhaled the dust that flew from the shelves in Restore, embracing this joy as I pulled splinters out of my hands from carrying one too many tables, embracing this joy as I spoke ten octaves higher than normal as I communicated with the elderly, embracing this joy as I counseled the distraught in the nursing home. This joy was something that grew throughout the day, and produced not only a thankful heart in me, but also gave me a new sense of understanding of what true service is. Being able to take my classroom knowledge and apply it to the real world of serving was a catalyst for the understanding and wisdom I gained this particular rainy Saturday.
The day started with an early wake up call. I was immediately greeted by the dreary weather, chilled by the wind that really shouldn’t be present in the middle of May. Regardless of the weather and time of day, I was super excited and expectant of what all was going to take place later on. First on the agenda was heading to the Restore store run by Habitat For Humanity. After being acquainted with the history and purpose of Habitat for Humanity, we were off to dusting and rearranging much of the store. Through the monotonous activity of cleaning shelves, I found myself thankful to be doing what I was doing. No matter the amount of times I had to wring out my rag, I found myself to be thankful for where I was. It was in that moment of time where the Lord spoke so softly to my heart about service and where it originates and how to truly cultivate a servant’s heart. Regardless of the situation or circumstance, all service should flow from a motivating place of love. The more I chose to look at my service from a joyful standpoint, the more I was fueled by love to keep going. As mundane of a job dusting can be, I chose to enjoy it, therefore, eventually causing me to love what I was doing and whom I was doing it for. It is amazing to think of what the fruit of one’s service can do for others.
After we finished working with Habitat for Humanity, the class headed to a local nursing home in the heart of Cleveland. I am generally a person who can be quite emotional, which made me a little “on the edge of my seat” for what I would be spending my next couple of hours doing. As we strolled through the open doors of the nursing home, I was greeted by the smell of Bengay and stale coffee. As we waited for instructions, my heart was struck with great grief as my eyes peeled around, looking at the women hunched over in their wheel chairs and the men asleep in their beds all alone. I quickly had to refocus my energy, looking at the positive and what I was here to do: love through serving. I was privileged enough to travel the mazes of the home and weave in and out of rooms offering sweet ladies manicures and pedicures. Whether the women were deaf or just couldn’t see, there was no need to feel awkward. There was a sweet peace about the room. The only communication that was truly felt was the raw love that was being exchanged from one another, through affirming touch and the company of the strong scent of nail polish.
There was one particular room that I went into where I found two ladies who wanted their nails done. One of the ladies, named Imogene, could not hear nor talk. Her chatty, 96 year old “roomie” made that very clear to me. Despite the barrier I experienced, I decided to walk over and give Imogene the choice of 4 different pink nail polishes, to which she pointed and chose the baby pink. As I picked up her trembling hands to delicately paint her fingers, the shaking stopped and a sweet peace came over her. Her hand rested in mine, perfectly, with all trembles absent. I was immediately moved to tears, being the sensitive girl that I am. I thought to myself, this is what it’s all about. Just the comforting touch and knowledge of knowing someone is there for you to care for and love you is one of the greatest things in life. What a sweet allusion to how our God cares for us. The little signs that He gives me throughout the day to remind me that He is with me can send any shaky situation into a sweet, sweet peace with all fear absent. His perfect love drowns out all other cares. As I finished Imogene’s left and right hands, we both sat and admired the color. It was so simple. What started as fear of rejection and potential awkward-ness from Imogene turned into a sweet silence that was moved by love alone. I left the room feeling very full of the presence of God and His ever-present peace.
The whole day could be summed up as one of the greatest learning experiences for me. Through service alone, the Lord was not only able to reveal His heart to me, but also teach me greater things about His beautiful love and care for His children. When His people come beside each other in the Kingdom of God, a beautiful picture of His heart is painted. I was able to step inside of my Father’s heart yesterday and experience sweet joy as I ministered to the “least of these.” It is a beautiful thing to know that His love doesn’t just have to be communicated in words, but just by a simple act of service, or even better, just an intentional presence. As I continue to move on in my summer schedule, I plan to live my days to the fullest of their ability, creating time to lavish the Father’s love on people in a more intentional manner. I will strive to bring Isaiah 61 to life, and walk in the love that the Father has given me. I love because He first loved me. I want the underlying foundation of all my works to come from a place of love that is in direct relation with His heart for His Bride. Looking at the day of service as a whole, I learned that service is not always one of the easiest things, but once you embrace the circumstance and choose joy, Love Himself makes a way.