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Maybe - Don't Interrupt Those Interruptions

Feeling Ceaselessly Interrupted?

Interruptions Are the Best!
— Said No One...Ever

30 years ago…The morning sun shone through the stained glass of my church office windows. I settled into my chair preparing to type up my sermon when the door buzzer sounded –

Inner voice - “No! Not again!”

Yesterday’s attempt to find some time to write had been interrupted repeatedly and with the weekend looming, I was feeling the real pressure of being unprepared for Sunday. The person at the door turned out to be Edith. I need to tell you about Edith, and I need to tell you what happened that morning.

Edith, a 60 something year old woman, was a regular to the church for worship on Sunday morning. She was perpetually down on her luck and yet dedicated to Sunday attendance and a life of independence. She lived two blocks from the church in a low income housing complex. With only sporadic employment, she had very little to her name. She lived in a meager apartment, wore overly worn clothing and squeaked by from payday to payday.

On a few occasions, Edith had allowed the church to assist her with groceries and rent, but mostly her stoic and determined mindset made her powerfully independent. Each time I spoke with Edith, I was mindful that she likely warred with some internal mental health issues – but all in all – she was a gentle spirit, if consistently odd.

Today, Edith eagerly wanted to tell me something. Her enthusiasm barely allowed her to wait for me to serve her a mug of coffee. Once she took the coffee and sat down, she started talking.

What she told me was…

She had recently gotten a second part-time job had gotten paid the day before. After she had paid her bills and bought groceries for this week, she had some money left over. Then she leaned over and spoke as if telling me a secret.

“There was this bedside stand down at the drug store that I’ve had my eye on for some time. Something I could place by my bed, for glasses, and my bible and stuff. You know. Well I went right down there and bought that stand, yes I did. And I took it back to my room and put it together. Sat it right by the bed. Then I had a troubling thought. Something didn’t seem right.”

“What was that,” I asked.

“It took me a minute, but I figured it out. You remember that sermon you preached last year about tithing and bringing the first fruits of the harvest to God?”

I didn’t. “Go on,” I said.

“Well I have something for the church,” she exclaimed!

With that, she bounded from my office outside and in a blink was standing in front of me holding her prize. That stand, the bed side table wasn’t an actual piece of furniture at all. It was one of those cardboard storage boxes, the kind that you fold tab A into slot B to make a flimsy two drawer chest. There she stood, beaming and childlike insisting I take the chest.

“I want the church to have this,” she employed. "I’m sure you can use it somewhere. Can’t you?” she asked.

I stood there speechless. Part of me wanted to explain to her that her application of my sermon wasn’t needed in this situation. Still, part of me knew no amount of theology or biblical talk would help her right now. What she needed most, as one of the hardest things I’ve done.

I took the cardboard chest from her, feeling all the while like I was receiving the Eucharist from the very table of Christ, and said, “Thank you. I’m sure we can.”

She burst into tears of joy, hugged and thanked me.

I learned some things that day.

1. Most of the time, the interruptions people bring into our lives ARE the work of our lives.
2. Gratitude is a powerful thing…for the grateful and for those around them.
3. Always consider the person behind the action – not just the action
4. Big lessons often come from messy places

I’ll be headed down to that church in August for a centennial celebration of the church, 30 years after receiving Edith’s donation. I will be surprised if the office bathroom still houses a simple cardboard chest that I left there all these years ago.  I know it still rests in my heart and for that day, Edith's interruption will be very present.

Let The Magic Loose - @CompassionateWS

A couple of months ago my friend, Cyndi Briggs, introduced me to the concept of Social Capital. Tonight the magic of Social Capital changed me. (Tweet THIS!)

Social Capital has to do with the people, actions, attitudes, environments and processes that make up our community. In varied ways, the contributions of individuals aggregate to create this Social Capital.

Magically, when it all gets together the whole is more than the sum of the parts. It’s magic, really.  

Real. Everyday. Magic

.Just like fantasy magic there is good magic and bad magic with Social Capital – depending on the parts. Sometimes communities get capitalized (Socially) in a way that makes for nasty places to live. Fortunately, I’m living in a place where magic is good – not perfect but perfect might just be coming closer.

Enter Compassionate Winston-Salem. 

I was invited to a gathering tonight of @CompassionateWS where some individuals (a pretty diverse group of people) sat around a table and wrote love letters – to unknown, unidentified strangers. The letters will be used next month during a Compassionate Cities emphasis. Good idea. Yet, tonight was very personal. 

I spent about an hour hand writing love notes for random people. I wrote poetry, pithy sayings, reminders for self-care and self-acceptance – all targeted at imagined people. I wrote each note, casually imagining the manner of person that might find the note or the situation in which it would be read. Would a homeless person stumble upon it and find the energy to try one more day? Could a stressed-out business executive find it and in reading it receive a small reprieve? Would a worried mother or challenged dad get a leg-up from the pause and reflection the note offered them? As I imagined these possibilities a strange, magical thing happened. I felt better. I connected with a larger hope. The love letters, yet ungiven and unfound, became love letters for me. 

I laughed. I joked. I smiled big goofy smiles and made heart shapes with my fingers. I drew love hearts and overused exclamation marks!!!! 

One person there said, “I feel like I’ve bonded with you people and I don’t even know you.” 

I left with some new friendships, a renewed spring in my step and delightful anticipation of the times when these notes will be read…which I can’t tell you about. It’s a secret. All magic is.