What We Do Matters: A Revelation

Move over Justin Timberlake. This lady can out dance you any day of the week…even Super Bowl Sunday.

Revelation isn’t a book in the Bible most people look at with fondness. In fact, it is one of those books more likely to elicit nightmares, good sci-fi, or wild, fear-driven testimonials.  It is also a book frequently misunderstood. But this week, as I listened to a Revelation sermon in the car (having missed church), I heard its meaning loud and clear. The message: what we do matters.

How we treat people. How we treat our world. How we respond….it matters. Not because some set of good works saves you from a fiery pit in Hades (because it doesn’t), but because what we do each day matters or can matter in the life of another. And that….that is what life is all about.

Today I had a conversation with one of my bosses. After almost nine years working in an office next to mine, I am amazed how little she understands me—who I am and what I care about. I told her I could care less about climbing the corporate ladder. And so, she asked me, “What do I care about, if I don’t care about my career?” I told her…helping people. It is that simple. Helping people on our team. Helping our clients. Helping people in our center. Helping people in our company. Helping people in our world. Like circles forming ever outward from a pebble thrown into the lake.  Tiny pebbles matter. Details matter. Little things matter because big things matter.

I missed the sermon on Revelation this Sunday because on my way to church, I pulled over to help a stranded driver. As I towed his broken car to a nearby parking lot, I noticed he wasn’t alone in his vehicle. His wife was in the passenger seat. It was 12 °F. And, come to find out he had three kids under the age of five in the car, as well. No repair shops were open and they were miles from home (Canada). Stuck. I invited them to stay with us and we helped them get their car running again. A new battery, an alternator fix, seven grilled cheeses, and some long games of “pirates on trains” later, they were ready for the road. By morning, the family was on their way to Arizona, as planned. We will likely never cross paths again, but our stories will ripple out and out and out. How we treat people…it matters.

What do my kids’ old Fisher Price pirate ship, Brio train tracks, and Playmobil miners make? One very big adventure for these two little Saskatchewaneans.

It also happened to be Super Bowl Sunday this weekend, and as is tradition, our youth group made 200 lunches and spent the day handing them out to homeless folks downtown—people sleeping outside, without nachos or big screen TVs. We also handed out hand-knitted scarves and hats. My favorite gift was to an older lady who was elated to get the chicken hat. I don’t think she was homeless, but it didn’t matter. She loved that hat. She started doing the chicken dance with us. No Super Bowl commercial could have competed with the smile on her face. People….they matter.

As I walked down the street, one of the high school youth turned to me and said, “This makes me happy and it makes me sad. The last guy I gave a lunch to said he hadn’t eaten in five days. I gave him two lunches! Can you believe we thought it was hard to go a whole day without food?”

I nodded in agreement. Speechless. I couldn’t have said it better. Walking downtown with youth, contemplating how fragile life is….it matters.

I am so grateful tonight for my warm bed, my family, my life, and the chances I’m given every single day to live out my purpose. What a revelation.

Hunger Pains

Lesson for the week: Hunger can be good and bad.

Are you hungry? Many of us are on new 2018 “diets” and we know the deep rumble in our stomachs. It’s the bad kind of hunger. The kind that hurts and nothing can quench it (at least nothing that won’t make you feel bad about yourself for failing). Or the kind that is unquenchable because your cupboards are bare. Hunger isn’t always about food, but after running a 30-hour famine retreat with my youth group this weekend, I can tell you sometimes it has everything to do with food. For 815 million people around the world, hunger is a way of life. Malnutrition is responsible for half of all deaths of children under age 5. Sobering. Are you hungry?

Many people around the world walk several hours a day to get water just to quench their thirst, and when they return, there is only water for dinner.

Hunger can also sometimes make you do things you wouldn’t normally do. Last week I was hungry for a nap. After late nights of working and a long plane flight for business, I hungered for just a few minutes of sleep. While waiting for the front desk to text me that my room was ready, I fell asleep by the pool of my fancy hotel. The security guards thought I was a homeless person and put me under “house arrest” until I could produce an alibi. Once I did, they left, with no apology. The front desk heard about the incident and when I finally got to my room there was a bottle of champagne, macaroons and a handwritten apology from the manager. The range of emotions was broad and deep. (I actually wanted to take the champagne outside and share it with all the homeless people.) Hunger. It makes you do things you normally wouldn’t do.

Hungry for rest? This is a nice place to lay your head. Or maybe not.

Hunger sometimes makes us do things we shouldn’t, too. Jean Valjean can tell you that. So can my son. He knows hunger this week. He desperately wanted to go to college after taking a semester off to heal from a herniated disc–one that prevents him from sitting for any reasonable length of time. He thought he was better enough to go this semester, but it was just his hunger talking.  It only took a week in class to realize the pain was too much to take. Sometimes we do things because of hunger that we shouldn’t.

Sometimes you just hunger to sit down for a meal on campus like everyone else.

Hunger can also be good. It can make you try things…challenge yourself. I also did that this week (it’s been a busy week). It was the good kind of hunger. The type that makes you realize there are opportunities to feel full again. And just peeking in the bakery window at the macaroons is sometimes enough to motivate you to change. I’ve seen the pastries. I’m ready to change. My son has tasted the pastries and now he wants them even more. Hunger can be good.

Hunger to change.

Hunger to solve problems.

Hunger to heal.

Hunger to feel better.

Hunger to serve the world.

It’s 2018. The start of something new. Are you hungry?

People with Rabies

rabies

This guy has Rabies.

A homeless guy called me “cool” today. He said and I quote, “Only cool people appreciate the name of my dog.” His dog’s name is Rabies. He knew how much I appreciated the name by my reaction. I LOVE creativity and a bit of dark humor. And this pup is aptly  named.

Just one day after watching A Dog’s Purpose at the movie theater (spoiler alert: bring Kleenex), today I saw another dog with a purpose. A dog named Rabies loving his master. A master who many people treat like he has rabies, though neither of them do.

I love his sign, too. I think it is a sign we all should carry. Everyday.

Because isn’t that what we are…really? Ugly and broke. We are all imperfect. Yes, we may wash our hair and put on clean clothes in the morning, but let’s face it. His sign is our sign, too.

And aren’t we ALL traveling folks? We journey through this world looking for our next opportunity–whether it be a better job, a happiness fix, a loyal friend, or our next meal. We travel. We journey. We wander. And every now and then, if we are wise, we slow down enough to share in the joy of the struggle and break bread with other ugly, broken people along the way. Cool.

My “Free” T-Shirt Has Cost Me Plenty! I’m So Glad.

tshirt

The most wonderfully expensive “free” t-shirt I’ve ever owned.

It happened again. This “free” t-shirt has cost me. Though I shouldn’t be surprised because I practically live in this incredibly soft, cotton-blend shirt.  It is the most comfortable t-shirt I’ve ever owned. It also just happens to say “Live Generously.”

Today, I was driving to get some lunch and pick up a few groceries. Standing on a busy curb by the store entrance was a man, his pregnant wife, and a stroller with a sleeping toddler inside. Something inside me stirred and I stopped and parked in a lonely lot where I could observe what they were doing. They held up a sign that I could not read. I watched as car after car drove past them—but not because people didn’t necessarily care—the way traffic was flowing it was pretty hit or miss whether a car would actually be able to stop long enough to roll down the window and hand them some change.

As I sat in my truck, my heart broke and I looked down. Sure enough, I was wearing my stinky well-worn “Live Generously” t-shirt. I hopped out of the Cranberry Crush and dodged traffic to go meet them.  I introduced myself and found out that they had traveled from California in search of a job. Their names were Julietta and Viorel. They were from Romania originally and were now living in Denver. He tried to answer all of my questions with broken English. He was a mechanic by trade and was having a hard time finding work because his English was not very good. Their smiles, however, spoke volumes.

I asked them what I could do that would be most helpful to them. My mind flashed back to times when I needed help and I remembered that having people ask me what I needed was so wonderful because I could tell them specifically rather than them deciding what I needed based on their perception of my situation or their own judgements. Not too surprisingly, they told me they were in need of groceries and cash to help with rent.

I ran to the grocery store to grab a gift card and some cash. What does “Live Generously” mean, I thought, as I stood at the checkout. $10? $20?  No. I decided today generous meant giving up what I would have spent on groceries.

I sprinted back the curb with my cash and gift card in hand. I gave $40 to Julietta and said, “for rent” and I handed Viorel a $100 gift card and said, “for groceries.” Tears started to well up in their eyes. It was like they had won the lottery. They beamed and we shook hands. I asked again. What else can I do? The language barrier was too much and we both recognized that nothing more could be done today. But today was a good day.

As I ran to my truck and got in, I saw them leave their post and head to their vehicle with a new spring in their step. We smiled and waved at each other. I can only hope we meet again.

I am so grateful for every day I can live generously. And, equally grateful for every day others have lived generously for me. I hope this t-shirt never wears out.