For the past year I’ve volunteered at a local medical center reading with kids while they wait for appointments. I like this for a lot of reasons: my kids are at school most days and I miss sharing books with them, the librarian in me loves an impromptu story time and I get to work with a population of kids who are often forgotten.
There are many days I don’t see any kids. At first I was frustrated because I was there to help! As I waited for some enthusiastic child to join me I started having conversations with the people in the waiting room.
One guy chatted me up and asked if I wanted to hear him play in his band. He whipped out his phone and pulled up a video of him in his blues band playing a mean harmonica. I spent that hour talking music with him.
Another lady asked me about my volunteering and soon it turned into a conversation about writing. She was a fellow scribe and we traded tips and tricks to pass the time.
When the Cleveland Orchestra comes to play I talk to others about the music.
Another guy told me his memories of heading down to his neighborhood library as a kid and it encouraged him to become a poet. He then read me some of his poetry.
I came to the medical facility to serve and what I found instead was relationship.
See sometimes we think our mission, our goal, is to do for people. I come to be the hands and feet and they come to receive, because I have and they do not.
It sounds so pompous doesn’t it?
What I am learning is that I am not sent to serve. I am sent to be in relationship with people. If I am too busy doing I miss the part where I am fully present with another person.
The point isn’t to serve. The point is to live life fully with whoever we are with. If the only people we come in contact look like us, talk like us and think like us, it’s time to make your world a little bigger.
I still go down every week. Some days I read. Some days I talk. Some days I listen. No matter what I do I go into it with the expectation I will fully meet whoever I interact with that day.
When you strike out today, no matter what it is you are doing, be fully present. Engage with every person like that moment is the most important in the world.
It will change your heart.
It will change your life.
In that you might find a person needs more help than a moment or you may find all they need is to be heard. Whatever it is, when you open yourself in relationship to whoever you are with
The kingdom here on earth grows bigger.
Go out and be with people today. Don’t do anything for them. Just be.