What are you doing?
Recently, the question has been asked several times: What are you doing for God? It’s a bit startling. What am I doing? My mind races through positions and titles, activities and volunteer opportunities. What am I doing? I took a spiritual gifts assessment. Can a person fail one of those? It didn’t seem to give any answers.
I think of what others have done that impacted my life. Rarely has it been the person with the title or the position that encouraged me just when I needed it. There is no title for the person who always offers a smile or a kind word, who listens when no one else will, or is willing to just be there when things seem to go all wrong. There are no volunteer opportunities for the person who will laugh with you, cry when you do, or offer a hug at just the right moment. Yet these are the ones I most often see God’s love through. They may not feel they are doing much for God. They may not be known for their great abilities or be able to chart their exact “gift” on a spiritual gifts assessment or personality profile. They may never hold the titles or positions that others do… it’s not that they have no talent, but that their talent can’t be measured in physical terms. How does one categorize the impact of a touch at the right moment, a kind word said, a patient, loving, caring attitude, a willingness to just simply “be there”? Is there a category somewhere for friend?
I knew someone like this in junior high and high school. She didn’t have the best grades and she definitely wasn’t an athlete. She didn’t have nice clothes; she wasn’t in the popular crowd. Kids picked on her. They picked on me for not picking on her. They laughed when I sat with her at lunch or talked to her after class. I wanted to be popular, and shunned her for awhile. She came to me one day and quietly, calmly told me that if I wanted to be popular, I could. She let me know that I would be accepted in that group but for one thing, and that if popularity was what I wanted, she would give that one thing to me–she was willing to sacrifice her friendship with me to give me what I wanted.
In that moment I realized what I truly wanted wasn’t popularity. Popularity was a shallow thing in comparison to true friendship, and in her I had a true friend.
I wish I could say the rest of high school was easy, or that the kids stopped teasing us, but that didn’t happen for at least several more years. Being friends with her carried with it a stigma I couldn’t shake even after she moved away. But having a true friend was more than worth it. As a result of her friendship, I went through my teen years without worrying from day to day what I’d wear or how I’d act to stay in the “in crowd”.
The only present I remember getting from her was a Cabbage Patch Kid. The homemade kind that was popular in the early 80s. At 12, I wasn’t impressed. She just didn’t have money for gifts; she used what she got to give her brothers and sisters lunch money most of the time. But she never realized she gave me some terrific gifts, including the courage to be myself and a desire to really know someone before judging them, to look past externals to hearts. Those weren’t things I understood at the time. I never had the opportunity to thank her. People said she wasn’t talented, but she was. She loved others selflessly. She gave in uncommon ways, from her heart. Those are talents that aren’t usually mapped on assessments, perhaps because they’re so rare. I’m lucky to have known someone with those rare abilities, though. My life has been better for it.