Monday, April 18, 2011

Fun Filled Sacrifice

After not one or two tries, but three Ellen finally succeeded in getting her swollen and stiff legs into my mini SUV. I pulled left out of her parking lot and headed down East Market towards the Green Acres Florist. "Do you need anything from the post office," I inquired.

"Nope," she answered.

"I'm going to the florist first and then we can go to Molloy's," I explained.

"I want to go in half on the flowers. How much do you want?" she asked.

"Ten will do it," I replied.

I pulled into Green Acres' parking lot next to a huge white tractor trailer parked there to deliver new, fresh flowers. "I'll wait here," Ellen said.

"I'll be back in a few," I responded while eyeing all the fresh daffodils and tulips planted outside the small shop.

Moments later I returned with a huge bouquet of fresh spring and summer flowers wrapped in green tissue paper and clear plastic wrap. "Oh, these are just perfect!" Ellen exclaimed with eyes bright eyed and wide. "What are we going to do if he cries?" she pondered aloud.

"I don't know," I said as I relished the thought of bringing tears to one of the most shrewd and hard nosed business men I've ever met.

We continued chatting onto the next stop, May's Pharmacy just five minutes down the road. "Do you want me to go in for you Ellen?" I politely asked while not wanting to discourage her independence.

"That's fine. You're my legs today. Here let me give you some mons," she said while digging through her wallet. "Large print puzzles and a Hershey chocolate bar any size," she reminded me.

The next stop would be John Smith's home. Ellen got news that the seventy something widow had fallen out of bed and was not doing well at all. She's known him for more than forty years. Although he appears quite dignified and shrewd as ever from behind the desk at our complex's rental office; Ellen remembers him as a great card player and hilarious as ever. Today was the day we decided to stop in and share a visit and some small, but lovely gifts with him.

Ellen shifted her body to the right and gingerly stepped down and onto the blacktop paved driveway of John's home. She grabbed my arm for support to walk up the narrow path to his front door. Only minutes prior she was chatting on and on about how fun it was to do ministry and have someone to do it with.

I rang the bell and John bellowed, "Come in!" I opened the door and allowed Ellen to pass in front of me. She shuffeled a bit before grabbing the railing to hoist each foot upon the brown carpeted stairs. "Can you get the stairs OK, Ellen?" John called out with concern.

"I'm taking my time," she answered. Once to the top she breathed a sigh of relief and cheerfully greeted her long time friend. 'We brought you some goodies, John," Ellen announced with glee.

I handed the large bouquet of colorful flowers by greeting him with,"For the man who loves flowers."

"Why these are just beautiful!" he beamed. "Please sit down," he motioned.

For the next half hour or so Mr. Smith went on and on sharing what's been happening while inquiring about the newly moved in tenants. He could not thank us enough for our time and gifts. The hard nosed business man I had always known from behind the rental office's desk was as delightful as the flowers we brought him.

After dropping Ellen back off to her apartment, I watched her through the tinted passenger window as she made her way, slowly and carefully putting one foot in front of the other upon the narrow concrete walkway. Finally, she grabbed the wooden railing and once again lifted one foot at a time up each concrete step before entering her sweet, cozy domain. She had given what she could today all from her heart and the little physical strength she had. As Mother Theresa once alluded we can all do, Ellen performed a small act of kindness today with great love.

It is no easy task to rise above one's glaring reality of cancer and limited strength. It is even greater to look upon the needs of others and become some sunshine to brighten their day. Ellen made a fun filled sacrifice today and reveled in every minute of it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Newly Arrived

It happened overnight
Warm, moist, precipitive fronts
Ushered in a whole new world of color
Bright, golden yellow trumpets
Declared their greetings
Lime green drop like beads
Decorated my Hydrangea
Mini purple stars of royalty
Curled outwards to kiss the air
Soft white swatches of fragrance
Aroused my olfactory

I know not when or how
I only observe the life that has recently sprung forth
It happened overnight
It happened while we were sleeping

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Martha, Martha

I stood outside the darkened side entrance of the church. Rrrrrrrrring the doorbell belted. I wondered if anyone upstairs would hear me. After a second try, Bill came scurrying down the steps to let me in."I just saw your truck go by when I was lookin out the window upstairs," he informed me.

"Thanks for coming down to let me in. I wasn't sure anyone heard me ringing the bell," I replied. By 5:45 p.m. the doors are locked as to deter people from coming just for the food. It was now 6:20 p.m. and I had just come from work to help out with tonight's serving. Bill and I climbed the steps to the second floor to be greeted by guitars and maracas playing amongst a unison of voices singing Your Love is Amazing. Bill sat back down while I passed into the kitchen to help out."Hi,Leigh," Don greeted me.

"How's it going?" I asked followed by, "What can I do?" For the moment there wasn't much happening. The food was ready to be served, but the service had not yet commenced. Through the kitchen door's window I could see leaders gathering around Bill to place their hands and pray for him. Everyone bowed in agreement. The kitchen workers began to grab the clear plastic pitchers of water and red fruity Kool-Aid ready to serve. Once the praying ceased we followed one by one with two pitchers for each table. Upon returning to the kitchen I headed over to the rectangular, steel counter across from the ovens to start serving.

Shredded Barbeque Chicken atop a soft sesame seed bun with crispy, golden tater tots and green beans on the side. I began to split the buns open and place each one on a plate to get a head start. Moments later, Bob returned the tray to load up. Bun. Plate. Shredded Barbeque chicken. Pass. Next. Three or four trayfuls later it was time to grab my own plate and eat.

I sat down next to an older woman with white hair slicked back and gathered in a bun. "How's it goin', Mary?" I inquired.

"Alright," she answered half heartedly.

"Yeah, it's pretty gray out there today," I replied. Mary continued to eat and engaged no further. Across from me Bill rambled on about the Mets and the Yankees to a few others while the middle aged woman, Diane, sat next to him. My friend, Mark sat next to me and began to engage in conversation with the rather oversized man sitting across from him. James was his name. He'd spent four years down in Fort Worth, Texas and began to share about his experiences there.

I wasn't even half way finished with my meal when out came a fellow servant with the dessert tray. Next, helpers were ready to start fixing seconds for people and then meals to go. I scarfed down the rest of my meal and headed into the kitchen to see what else needed to be done. Shortly afterwards a whirlwind of counter wipers, scrubbers, sweepers, dumpers and so forth plunged into action from every direction. Mary was just finishing her icecream when someone grabbed the pitchers and carried them off to the kitchen. Some of our guests had rushed out while a few lingered at the tables to finish eating or chatting while others worked around them. When I glanced up at the clock it was only 7 p.m. Less than 45 minutes prior to I had entered this very same room with people singing and playing music. Now it was clean up time. How long did they get to eat? How long did I eat? I suddenly felt a great welling up of somberness rising within. It was as if I was back at work following a routine of get 'em in and then out.

They came. They listened. They sang. Some stared. Some prayed. We ate. We all hurried up and rushed on our way. I stood at a loss for words. Why? Why the rush? Oh, Martha why?

Pastor asked me if I would take Diane home. "Sure, no problem," I volunteered. Diane never drives. Tonight, for the first time, I found out why. She matter of factly explained how she failed her driver's test three times. She continued with telling me her reflexes are too slow and that she takes medication for Epilepsy. I've seen her in church for at least two or three years now and never knew this. Why? I am challenged to question what is truly the meaning and purpose of the "Bread of Life". What is LIFE?

When I gather for a meal with some of my dearest friends, we relish our time together. We share. We empathize. We laugh and giggle. We partake of great food both physically and emotionally. We relect and we digest. We are anything BUT rushed. The sun passes from over our heads to setting in the far west by the time we are done.

Tonight I heard, "Martha, Martha you are worried about many things, but Mary has chosen the better." and I wished everyone and everything would just STOP. I wish I knew why we are always in a rush. I wish we could linger and commune more deeply.