Wednesday, April 29, 2009

HDG: Be Church

"We must not only give what we have; we must give what we are."
                                                                     ~Cardinal Mercia

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!]


  1. So many kindnesses it's hard to know which to choose but, just last night, I looked out the front door to see my next-door neighbor mowing the strip of my front yard between the sidewalk and the street.

  2. About 18 months ago, in October of 2007, I had a meeting with a potential "little sis" for the service organization I was involved in at the time. I was having a really bad day and it showed on my face. I'd been near tears for the whole morning and when I went to meet her, I nearly lost it. She could tell, obviously, that I was having a bad day and asked what was wrong. I proceeded to unload all my problems on her. And she listened kindly and handed me a tissue as I cried about things that were seemingly trivial (not to me but still). Later in our conversation we started talking about other things and I find out that it's the one year anniversary of her mother's death to lung cancer.

    To say that I was shocked, baffled, embarrassed, ashamed... well I was all those things and more.

    But this amazing girl, who did become my little sis, showed me compassion and kindness. She never acted for a second like my problems were trivial or that my sadness didn't matter. And throughout the almost two years I've known her she's held me up, time and again... when I thought for sure I'd fall down. She is the strongest person I know and I'll never forget that day she showed me such kindness. Because if it had been me in her shoes... I'd never gotten out of bed that day.

  3. 6 years ago my husband was in grad school, I was pregnant with our 3rd baby and we were flat broke. One night I went to bed and the next morning when I woke front yeard was filled with plants and flowers! My friend had come over at night and planted rows of flowers in my front bed and had pots of mums (it was Sepetember) on my front porch. I cannot forget that moment!

  4. oh wow, there have been so many over the past 22 months! it really is the small ones that mean so much. it's the person who calls to say they are running to the grocery store or Target and asks if i need anything. or the one who knows how much bottled water i drink and leaves a case of it randomly at my front door.

    i absolutely LOVE that quote. i want to be a person who gives of who i am. i know that YOU do already!!

    Recent blog post: Miracles and a Giveaway

  5. When we moved to Kansas I was seven months pregnant with our second baby. We had loaded everything into the storages PODS with the help of my dad and some men from our old church. When we got here Justin's new collegues, whom he had met once came over and moved us right in. We were quite grateful.

    Recent blog post: Top Ten Reasons I Love My Computer

  6. I so want to be the type of person you just described. I really do. What a great post, Sara.

    I have had several emails from blogging friends with words of encouragement, concerns and good words, and each and everyone touches my heart in a way it is so hard to describe. People do not realize how just a simple kind word will really make someone's day. When someone takes the time to email you a kind word, it makes my heart sing. Have a blessed day, speaking of emails, check yours!

    Recent blog post: Sometimes You Have to Take the Bull by the Horns

  7. When I was in college I came back from a night class to one of my friends sitting in in my room (we were both Resident Assistants so we had access to the keys). It turned out that my boyfriend, who is now my husband, had a really bad asthma attack and had to be taken to the hospital. My cellphone was off because I was in class so I had no idea. My friend had gotten wind of it and he had been there for almost two hours waiting for me to get back from class so I would not be alone when I heard the news. And answering my phone so I would have the most up-to-date information. It was so kind of him and made the whole situation easier to handlel.

  8. Our family had just moved to RI from NH and I was about 4-5 months pregnant with my second child. Meals were delivered to me for the whole first week after she was born. I remember that being so helpful to me as a mom. It was our church family who brought the meals to us.

  9. We just got back from Texas where we stayed with 7 families we've never met. I've never been showered with so many gifts and acts of love. BLEW. MY. MIND.

    Recent blog post: the fort worth zoo

  10. A dear friend of mine (who is now even more dear to me because of this) stuck by me unconditionally when I was dealing with the fallout from some truly dreadful "Mean Girls"-esque drama. I will never forget that, and I let them know pretty much daily how much having their support meant to me. :)

    Recent blog post: Things That Make Me Believe In Jesus, Volume One

  11. How are you Sarah? Is your migraine gone?

    When my 2nd child was born in April, I took an unpaid leave of absence as a teacher for the remainder of the school year to be home with her. My husband's company was going bankrupt, we were losing our house, and about to move out of state for a new job. Not the best of times, but situations that I rarely talked about, and never gave the full details on to anyone. But somehow, someone I worked with just knew. My co-workers donated sick days to me so that I could continue getting paid until the end of the school year AND stay at home with my daughters while we planned our move. I still tear up when I think of the gift they gave me, and it was 4 years ago this month : )

  12. Wow... What a great thing to always keep in mind.. It's so easy to get caught up in our own little world, but we need to be constantly thinking about being His hands and feet.

    Hmm.... The kindness that first comes to mind... My husband surprised me with a little getaway last week.... Great time to reconnect without the stresses of taking care of the house and our son...

    Thanks again for sharing!

  13. great story! i would have been mortified as well...good job though - you did it! that's so good, often we feel we don't have things to give, but probably more important is giving of ourselves...

  14. Many of my Bloggy friends showed me kindness when I lost my baby in Feb. Though I have never met most of these girls I feel like I know them and they really care. This OF COURSE includes you Miss Sara!!

    Love from WI
    Kate :-D

    Recent blog post: Party Like It's My Birthday...AGAIN

  15. This past week has been very rough and I witnessed a fellow blogger who had her hands full with the death of someone in her life take the time from her grief to come and make sure I was ok...Nothing has ment so much to me in so long.

    Recent blog post: Fun....

  16. Beautiful post, Sara. You never cease to inspire.

    My best friend's mom (who's like a second mom to me) recently sent me some sermon cds and a sweet note thanking me for something I did for her a year ago. She has an unidentified, chronic illness that leaves her weak and in pain most days, yet she is always encouraging and thinking of others.

  17. Mary Grace McNamaraApril 29, 2009 at 9:41 AM

    Another inspiring canvas which I would love to win and display! So many little kindnesses have been shown to me over the years, but the ones that are the most memorable always involve strangers and almost always happened at church right after Mass. People are just so nice and caring, and so quick to comment on children in church and how much they love seeing families together in church. We always sit in the front row - less distractions for the children and they can see what's going on - so I don't see all the people who see us. So many times I've been out shopping or around town and these people will come up to me and start telling me about how much they enjoy watching our family grow and then they will almost always give the children a little something. People are so thoughtful and generous and it's always reassuring to know that they appreciate families with children.


    Recent blog post: Giveaway Prize Ready to Go!

  18. Last week when it was extremely windy, I stopped at a gas station to fill up. As I got my credit card out and was about to get out of my car a young man in the next car took it from me and filled my car. He even stayed after his was full to finish it for me, returned the card and receipt stating have a good day. I might add that I am 77 years old and slow getting around sometimes.

  19. A friend of mine who is very 'non-touchy' hugged me a few months ago while I was crying. I was at a small Bible study, and I asked them all to pray for my job situation. I am in a job I don't like... and have been for more than two years now. I'm frustrated and feel depressed even sometimes because of the amount of resumes I've sent out with no contacts. So, I was just sharing with my friends my despair at the moment, and she came over and put her arms around me and let me cry. That was her being Jesus' arms to me at that moment. And I felt better afterwards. They encouraged me that God's plans are never wrong, and I know that's correct. That touched me incredibly.

    Beautiful post!

    Recent blog post: Creativity

  20. Today... I pick YOU sweet girl, and the kindness you show not just me, but everyone of us that shows up here. If there is anyone I would pick as exemplifying the very nature of that canvas, it would be you! For every post you write, and every sweet comment you leave, and the care and compassion for everyone, you give what you are.

    Thanks for another inspired way to view how I want to go about my life 8-) :-D

  21. So this is a story about our fellow blog peeps....inworship and inprogress. ;)

    Brent is usually my go-to if I have any technical questions about something I want to download or buy. I had asked him one time about Skype and he walked me through it and so on. When I realized that I didn't have a microphone installed on my laptop he told me to go to a Radio Shack. Well, I was not sure if teeny tiny Minot even HAD a Radio Shack. So, Brent and Tammy got it into their heads to buy me one and send it to me. Along with the microphone headset, he also sent an old ipod shuffle they had that wasn't being used....all because I had asked him a question about one because I was wanting to buy one. I knew before he sent it that it was coming because on the phone when I was asking about them he said "hey, I have not being used, want it?" This all took place over email so he didn't see me start to cry at his overflow of kindness.

    Those two have always been so good to me and treated me with love and kindness, enough to bring me to tears.

    And btw Gitz, everytime I read a post like this, I am convinced that you are NOT of this world. The amount of experiences that God packed into your life before your illness took over always amazes me. You have lived a life fuller than most. Love you dear friend.

    Recent blog post: The Birthday Boy

  22. okay, I realize I said "on the phone" and then "this all took place over email." I don't know what I was saying there. I know we spoke on the phone about it once and the rest through email. HAHAHA! I crack myself up.

    OH CRAP. don't count this in your "drawing" later. CRAP.

    Recent blog post: The Birthday Boy

  23. i love that he had the audacity to ask you to sing in class... and that you had the courage to actually do it. so incredible.

    i've been blessed to be on the receiving end of much kindness. something that sticks out in my mind right now is the ipod adapter in my car. i love music. i love having music blaring when i'm driving. when a friend heard that i was in the states, with no way to play my ipod in my car, she sent me her adapter. i'm aware of God's gifts and grace extended through His people every time i crank up the tunes!

    Recent blog post: open mic

  24. Just last week I went to Sam's with my youngest daughter and as I was getting my daughter out of the cart to put the cart in the cart return, a man approached me (a shopper, not an employee) and offered to take my cart to the cart return for me since I had my daughter in my arms. I was genuinely thankful and thought something so simple was such a nice gesture!

  25. You are a stud-woman to sing in class!
    Just last week I was struggling big time with my dad's decision to seriously date a woman, other than my mom (who is alive and single & both are Christians). I was having difficulty processing, and a co-worker really listened to me and encouraged me all day. It was such a blessing to me. Something so small, but it was just what I needed. I told her that yesterday!
    I love your pup-pics! So dashing!

    Recent blog post: Maniacle Moose Monday

  26. I don't feel I have much to give these days. At one time I felt vital to the church community, but now I'm aware of the pride that went alongwith such a feeling. Now that I'm not able to "do" as much, I sometimes feel I'm not important to the church anymore. Then God reminds me: I am the church. I am part of the body. Probably just an eyelash at this point in time, or a more descript picture, a freckle.

    I'll take it.

    At least I'm still His. ;)

    Recent blog post: A Moment With God

  27. I love your outlook on life. You always make me smile.

    I think about the times my neighbors have helped us out in some form or another. I've lived in the same house pretty much all my life, and have had more or less the same neighbors. Whether it's painting a room, throwing me an incredible bridal shower, or lending a cup of sugar, they're always there, and they're always family.

    Recent blog post: How Special?

  28. A "kindness moment" that sticks out in my mind is not really something that was directed to me, but I was there and will never forget it.

    When my husband and I were first dating, I walked all the time. One evening he offered to go with me and we walked for miles in my community. Just as we were coming over a hill, we heard a loud bang. It was an elderly gentleman (he's 96!) and he had been trying to back his car out of his driveway and he had knocked a whole row of mailboxes over; his and his neighbors. He was really shook up over the whole thing and my boyfriend (husband now) took full control over the situation and fixed all the mailboxes and helped to calm the gentleman down. It was at that time that I saw a side of him I hadn't noticed before.

  29. My husband is daily grace to me. He sees past my faults, loves me beyond anything I deserve and daily gives of himself.
    Yesterday was a rough one for me, but he listened to my rants, hugged me and offered to take any and all part of the load off my shoulders, if he could. I was ashamed of myself for not being better able to handle Life's stresses, but so blessed that I have a husband who's willing to carry them when I can't.

    Recent blog post: Facebook Anti-Christ?

  30. :) Dearie Friend Gitz! I received your beautiful canvas I ordered and I just LOVE it! And YOU!

    Recent kindness? Yesterday, a woman whose husband has been very bullying to me over a petty issue, approached me with warm support for an idea I had for our senior class. It wasn't an "I'm sorry" but it didn't need to be. I knew she was and I gratefully and happily accepted to the olive branch.

    But I need look no further than the lovely comments I get on my piddly blog day after day. I am VERY blessed and everyday is always filled with at least one tiny kindness and usually hundreds. We only have to remember to look! Thanks for asking and thank you for the post. I'm going to share it with my college bound "Bo" right now. And I love that you had to sing in class and what it produced!

    Recent blog post: Pig Deal

  31. Hey Gitz,
    The most recent act of kindness that really sticks out to me, was my lifegroup leader asked me to stay after class. She took time out of her day to find out what was really going on with me, and we talked for over an hour and a half. I think we all need people like that in our lives.
    Something my lifegroup does is encourages people. Recently we picked the paramedics, prayed for them, brought them cards, and I made them cookies. We also pick people in the church to encourage, but I really like the encouraging people outside of church.

    Recent blog post: Fitting in...

  32. I'm hoping that I can say that you did me a kindness today - by coming over to my place and clicking on the link. I need votes!
    Love your post usual. You always leave me with a smile on my face and in my heart!

  33. In my freshman year of college I became pregnant. When people found out it was usually a shock and they would generally say, "I can't believe you're pregnant" or "That so shocking!" Even my family were shocked and usually said something like that too. All except one aunt. When I told her she told me "Congratulations, you're going to be a great mom!". Her kind words always stood out to me.

  34. On Sunday I spoke at a church, promoting the camp that I work at. I did not mention that I was a missionary, because I was not there to raise money for myself. However, the pastor knows that I am and mentioned that I would probably appreciate any support someone would give me. His father-in-law, who I have never met and would not be able to pick out of a crowd again, walked up to me and gave me $20. It seems like a small amount, but it enabled me to buy the groceries for the meal I wanted to make (not the meal I could make with what I had) and go out to supper with a friend.

    Recent blog post: what?!?

  35. I have had so many kind words from fellow bloggers as I've written about my miscarriage. One of my friends sent me flowers when it happened. The baby would have been due this Saturday, and my hubby has suggested that the two of us spend the afternoon together (without our kids) just talking and reflecting on the past nine months. Even though all these things have usually brought me to tears, I have appreciated all of the kindnesses.

    Recent blog post: Give Me More Stripes

  36. The most recent kindness done to me was just last night at our small group potluck. One of the men held our 13 mo. old daughter while my husband & I ate. :)

  37. I love your blog :) Thank you so much for sharing what you do.

    When you asked us to write and share a story about someone who "gave" to us, I thought of my Dad. Let me tell you about my Dad. You see, I just LOVE talking about my Dad any chance I get. He was awesome! He was so funny, so wonderful, so nice to everyone. He was the best father anyone could ever wish for....and I am lucky enough to call him my father. My father taught me all about "giving". He taught me to show kindness and caring to all. He taught me to smile...and smile big. He gave me the best memories that I will cherish forever because he was a wonderful, giving man. He gave his whole heart and kind spirit to all, in everything he did. Everyone who knew my Dad felt this way, because they knew that's just how he was. Since I was a little girl (I'm now 39) he showed me how to have an upbeat, positive attitude no matter what. To be thankful for all we have, no matter what. To be nice and caring, no matter what. He gave me a good work ethic by showing me how hard work pays off (and not in a monatary sense). He gave me the gift of laughter, because seriously without that, how boring would life be?! He gave me all the love his heart could give. He even continued to do it when he was sick and dying. I chose to take care of him when he was sick and dying and as sad as it was, we made the best of it....we laughed every day, and spent so much quality time together. I miss my father more than I could ever begin to share. He gave his heart, his love, his kindness, his sunny disposition to all, no matter what, even on his dying day. For that I will always be thankful. He taught me to be a "giver" and I wouldn't want to be any other way.

    Recent blog post: Laugh O' The Day....

  38. One of my coworkers is always sweet and thoughtful. She's always doing nice things for me. I've been craving coffee, but since I'm pregnant, can't drink it. Nor can I have sugar right now. Well, one day I arrived to find decaf coffee and sugar-free creamer on my desk!

  39. The kindness given to me by friends I work with when I was being treated badly at work... women in groups can be so mean; but, women can also be so loving... the friends I needed at my lowest point were there for me... and are still there.

    Recent blog post: In Search of.....

  40. Mary @ Giving Up on PerfectApril 29, 2009 at 7:50 PM

    He made you sing??? Oh my goodness, I think I would have just died right then and there.

    A kindness? A few years ago, I broke down at Bible study, telling my girlfriends how Mark and I were going through some financial difficulties. They sat and listened and offered any advice they had. And two days later, one of my friends - who is notoriously, um, frugal - sent us a Walmart gift card. It was so unexpected, so needed, so kind.

    Recent blog post: Wordless Wednesday

  41. Lots of kindness shown to me and my family in the last year. Coming home to flowers and dinner on the doorstep from your neighbor is just about the nicest I have seen lately. Great post, I have been away for a few days. gotta get caught up :)

    Recent blog post: April 4th

  42. Gitz, I agree with so many of the other comments already posted. You truly do practice kindness in so many ways everyday. Being kind to others is something I really think about a lot and really emphasize with my kids daily. I have said many times that I don't care if my kids are the smartest in their class...I just want them to leave their classrooms at the end of the year and have their teachers say, "Wow! Those Landers kids are such nice, kind kids!"

    As far as kindnesses that I have experienced, I am very fortunate to be the recipient of numerous acts of kindness throughout everyday, but I would have to say that my husband makes the top of the list. He comes home for lunch everyday to join Ian and I, he always waits until I am seated to begin a meal...even if the kids have to start ahead of us or if I get stuck on the phone, he will iron clothes the night before I need them, he lets me sleep in on the weekends if I am needing it...just simple little things that make me know he is thinking about me and cares how I am feeling. Recently, someone who doesn't know him asked me what made me fall in love with him and among many other things I quickly replied that he is one of the kindest people I have ever met. I feel so very blessed!!

  43. A few weeks ago a friend sent me a hand-written note to say thanks for being a friend. She shared what about our friendship she valued and how she looks forward to many more years of friendship. The note was sweet, heartfelt, and simply kind.
    Thanks for the trip down memory lane today. I love reading your stories from our years at St. Stephen. The church, Fr., and the many incredible people who attended mass there left quite the imprint in my life.

  44. Wow! I just read this post and loved it! So inspiring. And singing in front of your class like that? Hello my worst nightmare!! You have guts!

    Recent blog post: Wordless Wednesday