How can I help
When going into the grocery store during these Covid-19 days, I feel like I’m getting ready to pull off a bank heist. Grab my mask, pull it over my nose and mouth, clear fingerprints with hand sanitizer, assess parking lot of other shopper in their protective face coverings, check the mirror one more time making sure no nose is showing, jump out of the car, and enter the store without making eye contact. It makes me wonder, how can I help others when I am just getting used to the new awkward? Feeling awkward is me on a good day; this 6 foot bubble between people has increased my ungraceful self 10 fold! Calling it the “new awkward” instead of the “new normal” is more realistic.
A few weeks ago, I entered the big box store in my heist gear. Usually I go with my husband so we can support each other and be all Apple Dumpling Gangster together as we quickly grab $1.29 bananas, 20 pounds of Russets, 37 cans of chicken broth and head to the registers. But this day was my first solo trip. One word described the feeling: “Criminal”.
Two mask enforcement greeters were staged at the entrance to usher in patrons. I respect and agree with mask wearing for safety of workers and customers. Wearing a mask is one tangible act I can contribute in this time of continuously asking, “how can I help?” Upon entering the store with the sea of mask wearing wanderers, I felt the neighborly urge to say “Hello” to anyone I made eye contact with.
Hello – How I can help
The first person I passed must not have heard my high pitch muffled salutation. Looking away quickly they busied themselves looking at stacks of shoes. The next patron made quick eye contact, but then turned her entire cart around mid-isle. An older woman and I held the stare for quite a time, I was smiling (of course she could not have known), but she conceded and looked away; no return on the neighborly greeting.
Continuing through the store, this became the norm. I must admit, sadness and insecurity increased as well as my speed shopping. Why weren’t people at least saying “Hello” like the good ol’ days or even entertain a simple nod? What has changed so drastically that simple niceties had so quickly disappeared? But maybe we all are wondering the same thing…about how can we help when we feel so helpless during this seemingly unfixable situation of pandemic.
I get it, months of sheltering, people out of work, daily lives are upended amid the viral outbreak. The brevity of sickness, loss of life, and loss of certain freedoms we have long taken for granted; it is understandable new behaviors are emerging, while others are held in stasis for now. But do we have to lose our conversation with neighbors? Shoot, grocery shopping is the only outing for many people! Shouldn’t we ban together in celebration of legally breaking free from our dens?
My help isn’t the same as your help
God has wired us all differently and beautifully. When we are working within his gifting, we are able to bless others. There are many ways to reflect God’s goodness through these gifts. If we were all gifted the same way, there would be an abundance of cheesecakes landing on porches from those with hospitable cooking gifts! That is the cool thing; He made some of us as reflections of his hospitality, some with gifts of encouragement, some with gifts of leadership, and so on. We all have something to bring to blessings to our neighbors in different loving ways.
There are many names for God’s intricate crafting of you: Spiritual gifts, Calling, Passion, Design are just a few. Exploring and understanding the way God wired us is eye opening and a blessing. There are many Christ centered books regarding the subject of Spiritual Gifts. The book “Network” by Bruce Bugbee and Don Cousins(Zondervan 1994, 2005) is a resource I have found very helpful in getting a snapshot of how to assess giftings. Network is a series of classes our church has accessed throughout the past 10 years and has been a wealth of encouragement to our congregation.
The gifts God blesses us with are to do two things: 1. Give him glory 2. Bless others. I picture it as if we are the liaisons for deliveries of the presents he want to make in person, but because of his hugeness, his amazing glory, it must be better to have his children deliver his gifts reflecting his glory among his people. Here is a not-so-secret secret I was told by a good friend: When we use gifts/talents to bless others, we receive a blessing in return. Gift application must be a sign-post towards the narrow path!
Turning to God, I asked what could I do to bring him glory during the new awkward. “Joy” was the answer. The way God wired us, along with many of his other attributes, is to reflect his joy. “You became imitations of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” 1Thess 1:6
Mission Joy is help
God provides simple, quaint everyday opportunities. “Reflect My joy in an email to your child’s teacher”, “Reflect My joy in a text to your neighbor”, “Reflect My joy-smile at your children”, “Reflect My joy in singing in your living room with family”. The occasions seem so little, non grand, and yet they have become the mission of every day; looking for God presented chances to reflect his joy.
Nicky Gumbel wrote, “We cannot be righteous in isolation. Righteousness is about our relationships-it is about bringing blessings to others.” You Version Bible in One Year 2020 with Nicky Gumbel
Then Gumbel gave a call out to his readers: “Who could you nourish, feed, guide with your words today?” We can feed each other with words!
We may be limited in grand gestures of help at this time, but that does not mean we are to be stagnant in our relationship with God or our neighbors. This is such a time we need to be more intentional about bringing God’s joy to others. We can smile, make eye contact, share an encouraging joyful word, and be image bearers of the Most High God.
Oh, and by the way…here is a joyful, crinkly, smiling eyes “HELLO!!”
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Psalms 51:12
Here are a few questions to think about today
- How has God naturally wired you? Are you a leader, a helper, a creator, a encourager?
- How can you reflect God’s joy today by employing those gifts?
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