It was a few years into working with at-risk youth that I realized, maybe working with youth wasn’t my thing. I was worn out. The intensity of the situations the kids were going through and the amped up energy they lived with left me depleted.
So I started looking for something, still daily walking alongside people, but calmer, quieter. When I saw an ad for a position in a nursing home, I thought “Yes. This is a change of pace.” I traded in rap and pop music for classical and sing-a-longs. I went from planning activities to keep kids busy after school to leading Bingo.
I traded in yelling for…well, sometimes there was still yelling. But most of the time it was a quieter bunch.
Now, serving Jesus looked different. It looked like sitting in a circle of wheelchairs leading simple movements for exercise. There was walking residents to and from a music performance.
There was lots and lots of trivia.
But my favorite was going table to table on the memory care unit and giving manicures.
I washed those gorgeous wrinkled hands in warm water, and put lotion on. I cleaned unidentified, smelly dark stuff from under nails. Then it was a fresh coat of polish. It was doing all of these things knowing that they wouldn’t be remembered a few minutes after we were done..
I look back on those days and see they were full of sacred moments. The Sunday church service where the harder of hearing made up for it by singing louder, more off key and a few lines ahead of everyone else. The talking with residents who didn’t attend events.
We will never be venerated for doing the dishes. Or for waking up with kids in the middle of the night because of a bad dream. Or the millions of things that make up a normal day.
Even when we contribute towards huge issues in the world, like poverty or injustice, it is likely in little ways.
But, I’m beginning to think that our contributions are neither big nor small. That instead there is no grand scale of importance.
Maybe our role is to faithfully do what is in front of us while living open to God. We can wrap the prayer “Your Kingdom come,” around our lives and move bravely in that direction with every small action.
Sometimes that is simply working through the mundane. Or loving the unlovable before us.
Sometimes it is taking a step towards a life of justice and mercy.
I love the way that Brennan Manning put it: “Simply do the next thing in love.”