“Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn’t matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again , come , come.” -Rumi
Months ago now, the teachers at our school had an inservice which ended with a creative assignment. There was a pile of small stones beside paints and paintbrushes. We were to think of a word to paint on the rock, expressing a wish for our school community. Many excellent words were chosen: “Happiness”; “Joy”; “Unity”, “Safety”. The stones were put in a basket and now sit in our art display case.
The word I chose was “Welcome” – that each child and adult would feel welcomed and included, no matter what challenges face us all. It is certainly how I have felt at our school thanks to many kind people. The word has stayed with me like a prayer all these months and came back to me this past week during my morning scripture readings.
This week’s theme was “service”. Scripture teaches that a Christian community is like a body, with many parts that all have a job or gift to contribute to the whole. Initially, I didn’t want to contemplate this theme. My gut reaction made me fear that if I am asked to serve, I’ll be depleted. And yet, I saw two clear examples this week that service is as much about giving as it is receiving.
The guide asked, “What gift do you have?” and that’s when I thought back to my “Welcome” stone. I’ve been told that’s one of my gifts, and I thought of the stone each morning as I welcomed the kids back to class. Teachers welcome the whole spectrum – from the quiet, happy child to the ones who are more like diamonds in the rough. All come through our doors. It’s funny – I drag my feet some mornings because I think that being a welcoming hostess will be an extraction.
But I invariably find that something kicks in as I remember that I love the kids. In welcoming them, I somehow remember the ways I myself have been welcomed. I have received love, guidance and support in so many ways. I have been given the gift of second chances from God and my faith community. I know I am not alone in this. Each person in our community would say the same. Despite the shadows that trip us up again and again, we are infinitely forgiven and loved. As one of my favorite verses says, “Nothing can separate us from God’s love.” (Romans 8:39) It gives me joy to welcome the kids.
I had another example of how service ended up being a gift to me as I gave it out. This time the gift was in writing. Every week as we study a scripture passage, we answer a few questions to help us focus. It was the same as the welcoming – I was dreading doing the writing because I thought it’d be an extraction, but it ended up being strangely refreshing and reorienting. My thoughts got organized. It was as if I’d just gone for a spa treatment as I wrote about important truths that were bigger than the small stuff I can get so preoccupied with.
Gifts are both something we give to the world and what we receive. I was grateful this week that I saw ways that God provides for me.
P.S. – Another encouraging gift came to me this week in the form of my son Joel’s creative ventures. He makes flowers dance in these little videos he is putting together for his project. He is giving something to the world and I see how much joy it gives him every day. Please have a look at his 5 minute video.