Wednesday, April 29, 2009
"We must not only give what we have; we must give what we are."
This phrase always reminds me of something that was often said at St. Stephen’s, where I used to attend church. The recurring theme was “Don’t Just Go to Church, BE Church.” I often thought of that saying as I would volunteer for different programs, help plan liturgies or take an active role in the Mass itself. The phrase really came to life, however, when random little moments to be church would present themselves on campus.
I attended a state college, so no one sent their kids there thinking they were going to be immersed in religious education by any means. And I think many adults assume that college kids have no interest in faith or religion or anything other than half priced drinks on The Hill on a Thursday night. And while half price drinks are no doubt a priority, they are underestimating the students on a college campus.
I was never one to go around spouting off about my faith in random situations. I wasn’t a bible beater and I honestly wasn’t comfortable just randomly approaching people about anything church related. But in truth, I never really had to. Nearly every time I would wear a sweatshirt to class that had the small St. Stephen’s emblem on it, someone would inquire. People I had barely spoken to would ask me if I went there, if I liked it, what it was like. They were curious, and it rarely took more than me mentioning it as a great place to study or talking about some of the programs that I helped with for them to be interested. All that was required of me was being open to the conversation.
Sometimes I would invite them to one of the free dinners, or would let them know when I was singing in order to give them an excuse to come. But it really never took much… the biggest hurdle was me having the good sense to not just tell them about it, but extend the invitation and let them know they were welcome.
One class in particular, my African American Literature course, presented a very unexpected [and uncomfortable] moment to share about my church. The professor was visiting that semester, and apparently had attended St. Stephen’s on a Sunday when I had cantored, and sang Amazing Grace a cappella. I showed up to class on Monday and he started his lecture by talking to us about how spiritual songs were often started by slaves. He began talking about Amazing Grace, and then told the class that I had sang it that weekend and that he thought it would be a great idea for me to sing it, right then and there, for the class.
You can be sure I was horrified. First of all, I had no idea he had been there when I sang, and second of all, the last thing I had intended on doing in my 8:00am class was opening my mouth to sing. I wasn’t even sure I had spoken to anyone yet that morning. So I made everyone shut their eyes so I could pretend I was anywhere other than the broken down Aud building… and I sang. And a good number of the class showed up the next weekend to Mass. I have no idea if any of them continued going, but they had a reason to go that weekend, and that was something.
I can't go to church anymore, but I'm given opportunities to be church all the time, if I'm open to the moments. I can't necessarily give something I have, but I can still give people who I am. I can help take some little tasks off the plate of a busy friend, I can provide a listening ear and words of encouragement.
You can take dinner to someone who is frazzled by their weekly commitments or watch a child for an afternoon to give a mom a break. Or you could risk the embarrassment of looking like an idiot by singing to a room full of college students.
You know, little things like that.
It’s all about listening to the little voice inside that thinks about a kindness, and actually following through to make it happen.
Sometimes the follow through is the biggest hurdle of all.
To win today's canvas, leave a comment about how someone showed you a kindness. It doesn't have to be anything big; just something that stuck with you. Leave your comment before midnight CST, and I'll announce the winner tomorrow! [Only one comment per person, please!]