Yesterday I led worship at an assisted living facility and we used the passage in Matthew about the righteous and the not-so-righteous which Jesus, as he told the story, were like the sheep (the good guys) and the goats (the bad guys). The good guys – and gals – were/are those who respond to those in need, the ones who are hungry or thirsty for whom we provide, the ones who are sick or in prison who we visit. The bad folks are those who did/do not reach out with a compassionate heart. In the story, the good and bad are separated – with the sheep on the right and the goats on the left. When we had a time for prayer one of the residents proposed that we pray for the ones on the left, and I said, “Oh yes, we should pray for the goats in the world, that they might hear God’s call to move to the right.” (Interesting as this is not consistent with my thinking about political alignment…) And so as I lifted prayer concerns I did include the goats which garnered giggles; I’d like to think that God may have giggled a bit too.
Last night I received a request from a friend at my church in Reading asking if she might have a prayer shawl for a friend (mother of a 12 year old) who has had brain surgery for a cancerous tumor. The Reading church has a prayer shawl ministry that has been such a blessing due to the efforts of a large number of knitters and crocheters. I was grateful that we have a number of shawls in “reserve” so that when such a request comes in we can respond – and as a rule with a color of choice! This was such a good reminder of the rule of abundance – there is indeed, always enough…maybe even more than enough!
I was relating these experiences to some women in Newton today, and one told of her recent experience in social work she is doing at a hospital in Mattapan, one of the neighborhoods in Boston. She told of an older woman who is neighbor to a younger woman who was being assessed. The younger woman has no family and has health and addiction issues. The next door neighbor has stepped forward, manages the financial and medical issues of this other woman – because this other woman has no one. We also heard about two men, one who had been student to an older woman who now has dementia, and has no family. The men are doing the same for this woman as the neighbor is doing for the younger woman. In each instance the caregivers surely have sheep-like hearts of compassion.
I want to remember these small gifts, these stories or experiences that remind me that life is good, and that there are compassionate people in the world. Even the remembering is a gift.