Danny and I have a lot of favorite movies, but one near the top of the list is Open Range with Robert Duvall, Kevin Costner, and Annette Bening. Costner was a gun hand with a rough past, and throughout the movie, he is consistently struggling against that former life while at the same time feeling that he’s not worthy of anything better. In one scene, Bening tells him, “I’ve seen who you are, Charlie. The way you looked after that boy, and the respect you give boss. They might be little bits, but they’re enough for a woman who looks.”
Not long ago, my boss, Mr. T, received a letter in the mail. In it the man recounted that he’d recently stopped by a funeral on his way home from work. He said his wife had looked askance when he told her, stating about the deceased, “You didn’t even know them.” But he recounted the story of some years earlier when Mr. T. showed up at his mother’s funeral. My boss didn’t know the deceased and was only an acquaintance of the man who wrote the letter. But it had made a very strong impact on him, just the act of Mr. T. being there. And so he decided that day to pay it forward in a sense.
My boss told me, “There’s a ministry in just showing up.”
One of the things I’ve noticed since I started attending a Baptist church with Danny is how often pastor reminds the congregation of sharing the gospel with others. It’s not something I remember hearing much in the Catholic church, although I know there were many ministries which did that very thing. I’ve often wondered, how is one called?
When I was a little girl, I drank my Grandma’s bottle of holy water. I don’t remember her exact words, but whatever she said made me think I was going to become a nun. Our priest often asked the parish to pray for people to hear and receive the calling, because of the shortage of those entering either the priesthood or the sisterhood. I never really understood what that calling was, and so eventually I just figured I’d never received it. Case closed.
But I’ve chewed on what Mr. T said about “the ministry of showing up” a lot lately. Especially since my dad died. There is no way to measure the comfort received by the presence of those who were at the visitation and the funeral. I will cherish the recollection of the moment my eyes fell upon each them and the solace that seeped into my soul. So many family and friends came from far away, some of them we hadn’t seen in years. Mechanics who hadn’t worked with Daddy in years stopped by to relate some story about him. I was so surprised when the father of a girl who had lived next door to us as kids showed up. He told me about how Daddy had let him move in with him for a few months until he and his wife had gotten married. I’d had no idea about that, but it gave me something new to remember when I think of my father, and no price can be placed on that gift.
On the day of the funeral, I was seated at the front, mentally going over my eulogy when I looked up and saw Mr. T and his lovely wife walking into the room. He’d hired a temp to catch the phones and had driven four and a half hours to be there. But he’d shown up, and I just cannot find the words to express my gratitude for that.
It may be that “the calling” I was expecting as a child isn’t at all what I thought it was. Maybe we are each called daily, in ways we cannot even fathom, to become the conduit for God’s enduring love and healing.
Twenty years ago, my sister died suddenly. It was Thanksgiving Day, and I was in the Dallas/Fort Worth area with Danny’s family. We’d flown our small Cessna, arriving just in time before the weather closed in. When we found out about my sister’s death, the only way to get me home quickly was a commercial flight the next morning. Danny would follow later in his plane as soon as the front pushed through. Early that Friday we arrived at the mostly vacant terminal, and there at the gate to my flight was a man my husband knew.
Bob West is a sports writer in the Beaumont/Port Arthur area, and Danny had met him in association with the museum he built there. He told Bob about what had happened and that I would be flying home alone. A few minutes later, we boarded, the plane empty. I took a seat, and Bob took the one next to me. If he spoke during the flight, I don’t remember it. Conversation would have been difficult in that moment anyway. But he was there. The presence of a stranger beside me was like a bolster for me as I prepared to face what seemed unthinkable.
I hadn’t given it much thought until today, but I have no idea where Bob was flying from that morning. It was Thanksgiving, and he has a wonderful wife and children. I imagine work had kept him away, but he was about to get home to his family. Whatever the circumstance, however the machinations of the world, he was given an opportunity that day. And he took it. He took a seat beside a broken-hearted person who just needed his presence.
What’s remarkable about all of these stories is that the person called didn’t have to do anything extraordinary. Sometimes, not even speaking a word. Yet the impact of their company was stronger than anything they could have said or done. Just being there was enough. Just the simple act of showing up.
But it’s more than that, too. Because when someone shows up for you, you then become aware of the opportunities you have to do the same. I hope there haven’t been many where I ignored the calling. Just a week after Daddy’s death, my husband received a call from a friend who’d lost his daughter. And he “showed up” for him, listening and speaking and paying forward the same gift he and I have so often received. What a humbling blessing to receive that calling!
We reap what we sow in life. And I want to be the person who shows up when someone has a need. A phone call. A smile. Holding open a door. They’re little things, but they’re important to the one who looks.
Sunday at church, pastor talked about Jehovah Roi, the Lord who sees. And if God sees all, that doesn’t just mean He sees the bad in us, but also the potential for greatness. And He knows the needs of our hearts.
For my last release, I did a lot of research about alcoholism and the twelve steps. One of the things I learned about recovery is that for many people healing is found by helping others–sponsors for addicts and also addicts themselves. They receive something powerful in the process, and it’s part of the foundation of the program.
Are you hurting today? Is there something weighing heavily on your heart? Have you lost someone? It may be that a chance to “show up” for someone else will cross your path. Look for it, because the blessing of taking advantage of the chance the Lord places before us is real. I know that the days I struggle most with the recent loss of my dad are days of great opportunity. They’re little things, but they’re enough.
God bless you all,