I feel like a high school senior, with every opportunity in front of me, and I have the daunting task of narrowing them down. The only difference is the senior is planning for when he "grows up". I am already grown. I know my strengths and my talents. I know my weaknesses and what I should never attempt to do. I know so much more about myself, thanks to time and experiences, than any senior could possibly know about herself. I get to use all of that information to figure out what I should be doing.
Honestly, all I want to do is help people. That's it. But which ones? And how?
I would love to be a doula, assisting women who have sought help at crisis pregnancy centers.
I would love to help young moms who are having a rough time parenting.
I want to help kids who are suffering for any number of reasons.
I want to help families in homeless shelters experience some happy, "normal" events.
I want to help people who are just plain lonely.
I want to help people who don't see any way of getting out of the horrible conditions they are in.
I want to help families with sick children, either playing with or holding the kids at the hospital while the parents have to work or helping the parents as they sit in anguish by their child's side.
The list of possibilities goes on an on and on.
I spend time each day praying about it. Asking God what He wants me to do.
I almost feel stuck because I just don't know where to begin.
Last night we went out to dinner for Cuckoo's upcoming birthday. I was in the middle of eating my quite yummy beef stroganoff when I noticed an elderly woman walking toward the exit. I recognized her as one of the ladies in my Bible study class I did last year. (The one where I brought the average age of the room down to 78.) Of course, with my terrible memory, I had no idea what her name was, but I recognized her.
I felt a pull to go say hello.
I hesitated, though. My family teases me all the time about talking to people, including people I don't know. I knew that if I stood up and left my meal to talk to this woman, I'd be taken to task by them.
In the end, I just couldn't let her leave without saying something.
I got to her as she was paying her bill.
We exchanged hellos, and when I asked her how she was doing, she said, "Well, that's probably not a question you want to ask me right now." She's having a rough go these days. Her husband died two years ago, and now her son, who lives with her, is extremely ill.
We talked for a little while, and it was so clear that she was sad and lonely and overwhelmed.
Towards the end of our conversation, told her to call me whenever she felt like just visiting with someone. She argued that I was busy enough with my own family. Aha! I told her. With my youngest just leaving for school, I had more time than I want on my hands. She thanked me for stopping to say hi, and I went back to my seat, trying to decide the best way to go about getting her name.
As I predicted, I was teased by my family for leaving in the middle of my meal.
When we got home, the light on our answering machine was blinking.
I hit play to hear this:
"This message is for Christine. This is (her name). You just took the time to talk to me at the restaurant about a half hour ago, and I wanted to say thank you so much...That was your good deed for the day...You made me feel a whole lot better...When I say my prayers tonight, I will thank God for the message you gave me tonight. I really appreciate the time you took away from your beautiful family to talk to me...Well, thank you."
As the tears pooled in my eyes, I was taken aback by my stupidity.
My entire life, I have not planned much of anything. Opportunities come, and I take them. They always turn into something positive. I have kept my eyes open, trusted God to lead me, and just jumped into whatever was there.
Why did I think anything would be different now??
Sprinkled through the thousands of times I've been asked "What are you going to do?" has been the question, "Can you help?"
I am having lunch tomorrow with the mother of one of my best friends. They both could use some help, so I am doing what I can.
The south side of Indianapolis has the largest population of Burmese refugees in the country. A friend of mine teaches at a school where half the students are Burmese and are learning English. She has asked me to come in whenever I have even just 20 minutes to work with some kids one on one. I'm going in later this week.
And tomorrow I will be calling the sweet woman from the restaurant, now that I know her name, to invite her to lunch and help her with some errands.
Am I happy that my job of stay-at-home mom has basically changed to homemaker? No. I'd much rather have little kids making noise all over the house all day.
But with this change comes a new phase in my life. A phase where I can reach out and help in ways I never could before. To help people I never could have helped with a gaggle of kids accompanying me.
I'm OK with that.
I'm thinking that soon enough I'll be pretty happy with that.
Have a lovely day!