On a recent day at the Choices office I had the opportunity to hang out with a few friends, (otherwise known as clients). Names here of course are pseudonyms, but one of them was Heather, who was shopping in our on-site store, using the Baby Bucks she’d earned while hanging out with her friend, (otherwise known as a client advocate), sharing her story, and learning about her soon-coming adventure as a parent. Now, with baby boy Samuel, she frequently comes in, shares conversation, learns about a parenting concept, and shops for diapers, clothes, and other misc baby needs.
While I held Samuel, I watched her grab cute pink outfits from the racks. Hmmm. So, I asked her, “Heather, who are the girlie clothes for?” Her response caused me to need to blink my eyes in an attempt to hold back the tears that really wanted to burst forth, “I have this neighbor. She’s eighteen, and she has this baby girl, and no one to help her, no family, no friends, and she needs baby clothes – I always see her baby running around in just a diaper. I’ve told her about Choices, but she’s scared and shy. I thought if I brought her some things, I could help her understand how much you all care, and will help her like you’ve helped me.”
Voila. I realized that just as Heather felt cared for and loved, she wanted her neighbor to know this reality as well – and she was willing to sacrifice her own Baby Bucks, (incentive as part of parenting conversations) by being incredibly generous, to demonstrate her own version of otherlyness. (Side note: Heather, having escaped a dire living situation, spent part of her pregnancy homeless, camping outside in the middle of a snowy winter. She understands what it is to suffer and do without. Yet, she still desires to share generously.)
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” came to my mind. Okay, maybe not the best quote, but so true. When we provide welcome and hospitality, love without agenda, and engage people in ways to meet their needs, they respond in like manner: otherlyness reproduced! Is that at least a part of what we are called to do as people who refer to themselves as followers of Jesus?
In reading The Forgotten Ways Handbook (Hirsch), I came across these thoughts to consider for those who refer to themselves as ‘followers of Jesus’; even the term ‘Christian’ is interpreted as ‘Little Christ’. As we go about our lives, we must consider that “He was known as a friend of outcasts and sinners, and spent lots of time with those not of the faith”. (p.46) So today, these questions are on my mind: “Who did Jesus spend time with? Who do we spend time with? And, whom did Jesus eat with? Whom do we eat with? Whom do we invite to our table?” (p.46)
When our volunteers choose to be present at Choices, and to those they meet with, they are being Jesus. When they order pizza and salad and eat with friends/clients, they are being Jesus. To be Christian IS to reflect Christlikeness.
These stories about how we can be otherly by merely hanging out at an office once a week (typical client advocate shift is four hours), meeting with people like Heather, providing pizza for lunch, chocolate for the many bowls, a small birthday gift, throwing a baby shower, or simple conversation and reassurance, remind me how simple it is to make differences that actually matter. (Relationships = hope!)
I’m thinking that’s what is meant by “love one another as I have loved you”. And, BTW, none of these who serve with us would consider themselves heroes, saints, or even great persons – just ordinary people doing ordinary (yet extravagant!) things as an outflow of calling themselves followers of Jesus. Beautifiul, don’t you think?