Yesterday I walked past a conversation in the front office at Choices – and must confess, I intentionally lingered. In the midst of two people conversing over a few chocolates, understanding was being sought, hope was being discovered, and prayer was being requested. A young woman who comes in regularly for diapers, and had exhausted our parenting curriculum, (where we meet individually as friends, and conversation-style discuss parenting concepts and provide emotional support for hard places), had decided a while back to move on to some Bible studies. Now, I must add, while these are available, they are not pushed, nor really even offered. They are available for those with a desire to pursue spiritual understanding and relationship with God – and often these folks are what I refer to (at the irkedness of some), as the spiritual, yet not religious. (It is basically understood that most Americans hold belief in God, but they are increasingly losing trust in organized/institutional religion, and seek to find spiritual engagement in more intimate and creative ways.) I’m keenly aware that many who come to Choices fall into that category, and will not be heading to church – they are at the margins of the faith; interested in spiritual matters, yet not desirous of a traditional setting. And so we respectfully engage as appropriate. Our ‘job’ is to inspire hope to whatever has brought a person into our community – knowing that faith looks and feels a lot like love.
I was intrigued by this young woman discussing the agedness of Old Testament people, such as Methusalah, and her thoughts of longevity and how it relates to today, considering our societal nutritional and environmental influences. Her engagement with the material and our receptionist reminded me that hope is something longed for, and that simple community is meaningful. We didn’t fly the flag, we didn’t push, we didn’t have an agenda – we simply attempt to live as people of Jesus, or as Jimmy Spencer says, “Practicing how to be a human – in the pattern of Jesus.” ( http://ebook.lovewithoutagenda.com/ – you should go there!)
Toward the end of this exchange, this mom shared a recent story about a horrifically tragic accident that clearly troubled her – and she requested prayer. She asked how to get through such an event – how to understand the actions of her friend who caused the loss of a mother, father and one child. She desperately needed someone to hold a bit of her pain – to ‘suffer with’ her – that’s the essence of felt compassion.
As she eagerly conversed with our receptionist, (who must now be known also as a client advocate), I clearly observed a meaningful advocacy flowing – I was seized by the beauty that was present in the room. Something compelled me to linger. Something said, “Listen, there is goodness in the gift of presence. There is peace and hope for the way forward in the midst of serendipitous conversations.” Echoes of a friend’s words on the subject: 1. Show up. 2. Be present. 3. Let go of outcomes. Let us always know that we cannot fix – but we can sit with, listen, and respond in ways that lessen suffering.
Life at Choices never ceases to bless me. Each time I visit the office, I pray, “God, please allow me to be attentive, listen and experience the goodness that is present in this place.” And it is there for me, over and over again.