Two weeks or so ago I found myself sitting in a doctor's waiting room waiting with my brother. (Nothing major, just a routine office appointment). It is not unusual in our Southern culture to go to the doctor's office and strike up conversations with total strangers but this visit was a little different. On one side of the waiting room was a little alcove with seating for a dozen if packed, or 6-8 with comfortable space between us. I pulled out my current needle-work project and as I began stitching various people began commenting on what I was doing and asking me questions about it. We began sharing our stories. As we shared, the waiting became unimportant; the connections we were making were what mattered.
There was the excellent mother (also a loving daughter!) who was in town from New York City with her son to visit her parents. She and her son were waiting for her mother and we talked about her life in NYC and the things she misses about Alabama. Her son ~ about 10 ~ shared what he likes about big city life and what he likes about small-town Alabama. Being 10, Chick-Fil-A was toward the top of the list of things he likes about Alabama!
There was the contractor who was waiting for his wife. He served in Vietnam and got rather quiet when thanked for his service. His mother made all their clothes when he was growing up. She worked hard to care for her family and cook and sew for them. That was how she showed her love for her children and to this day he is secure in knowing that she loved him well.
There was the woman whose husband is falling into the abyss of Alzheimer's disease. It is a heavy burden for her and her children (and she spares them as much of that burden as she can). Her husband was a very out-going and sociable man and it was hard for her to watch him become less and less able to have any kind of social life because of the disease. She recently found an adult day-care in town for victims of this disease, so she was able to return to work to provide for him. She said that after a few days of going to this facility her husband came home and thanked her profusely for finding this outlet for him. She was so happy to be able to share that part of the story.
There was the teacher who was on the verge of retirement. She obviously had a gift for teaching and a passion for serving children, parents, and teachers-in-training. She talked much less about curriculum and administrative things and much more about children and the joy she shared with them. It was fascinating watching her interact with the young man from New York.
There was the couple who each had their battle with cancer. He was over a decade out from stomach cancer, and she had been dealing with renal cancer. Their quiet trust in God's provision for them and goodness to them was inspiring.
People came and went and we all connected in some small way with each other. One might almost say that we built our own little community through this process.
When everyone else had left, there was myself and one elderly lady. We began talking and I listened to her story. She had been quite happily married to an Army veteran. He was diagnosed with brain cancer and survived six years with that demon. After he died, she lost both her parents within months of each other. Then she had to retire from a job that she had loved. I felt for her; it is so hard to give up so much and to lose a job that you enjoy, doing work that matters. I asked her what she did now that she was retired. Her face lit up.
"Well, I stay home and I read my Bible and I pray."
Her new work is the work of prayer. Apparently people "from all over" get in touch with her and ask her to pray for them. She said that she prays for them until the Lord tells her that she may stop. Sometimes she hears from the people she has been praying for, telling her what God has done for them. Sometimes she doesn't.
I was struck by her attitude about this work. It is not a drudge. It is not something she does because there is nothing else that she can do. It is her joyful service and she is excited about the fact that she has time ~ now that she is retired ~ to devote to this crucial work.
May God fill each of us with this heart of joy in the work that He gives us today. May we remember that our work is done each day to reflect His glory and share His Light.
His peace to your homes.