One week to go. Got your Christmas shopping done?
We’ve got ours done. All the gifts are purchased. Finished it off over the weekend. That only leaves…Christmas Eve worship, a couple of sermons, two funerals, Confirmation and worship on Wednesday, Bible study, some home visits… Yep, it’s “crunch time!”
But in the midst of the gift buying, wrapping, and the rest of the “crunch,” I’ve been pondering a special kind of “gifted-ness.” So much so that I even included it in my sermon at the 8 AM worship yesterday, so if you were with us, you might catch where this will be going.
Way back in November, the day before Thanksgiving, we had some snow. Wet stuff, slick underneath, but not really enough to use the snow blower. Besides, I have a new shovel, and the excitement to try out my new shovel was just too much. Out I went to clear the driveway. As I pushed snow to the side, I was making decent progress, until…my feet went out from under me, and down I went.
Fortunately, I was wearing padded winter gloves.
On reaching the driveway in a sudden, quick, and uncontrolled motion, my left hand arrived first (probably better than my face!) I’m not totally sure exactly what happened (there is no video of the event), but as my hand reached the pavement, my thumb and the rest of my hand went their separate ways, and the ligaments, muscle, and tissue that holds them all together paid the price.
The end result of all this is that for the past weeks I’ve had a bum left hand (and yes, I am left handed). Nothing broken, but after initially wearing an Ace bandage, I’ve since graduated to a more stylish splint. The good news is that it is slowly getting better.
That was not quite as apparent a week ago. Around December 9th the hand was still bothering me, aching and still quite tender. That evening was our Congregational Council meeting, at our home. Pastor Jean and I usually host the December meeting, with families joining us for a Christmas party after we finish our business.
Earlier in the day when we received another inch of snow. Again, not really enough to use the snow blower, but enough to need to be removed. After all, others don’t need to replicate my adventure!
As I drove home from making some calls in La Crosse, I pondered the dilemma of removing the snow with a bum hand. Pastor Jean insisted that she and Rebecca would clear the driveway. I was, to say the least, skeptical of that.
However, when I arrived home I found the driveway and sidewalks clear, and to be quite honest, cleared well. Maybe I was wrong? Maybe they could handle it after all. That would be a gift!
No such luck. There was a gift here, but not what I thought. And quite frankly, the gift was better, far better that Pastor Jean and Rebecca becoming our snow removal team.
As Pastor Jean and Rebecca had arrived home, there were some neighborhood kids working on our driveway. It seems the kids had gone around the neighborhood to clear some driveways. Rebecca helped them finish up, and off they went, just minutes before I got there. A good deed, an “act of random kindness.” The snow was only one inch, and it probably wasn’t that big a deal, but they were out there, making a difference in the lives of others. And I’m sure others appreciated their gift.
But there is more to the story. The story is not just about their willingness to make a small gift of a clear driveway. Remember my hand? Pastor Jean did! She made a point of telling the kids that this was REALLY helpful, because I would struggle to get it done – and now, I didn’t need to.
Think about that for a moment. They did something relatively simple and small. An act of kindness, to be sure, but really, what was it worth? About 20 minutes of “cardio-vascular exercise?” I would have appreciated their time and effort, really I would. But with my bum hand, torn (and still healing) ligaments and all, this simple gift became much more than that. It was a huge gift, at the right moment. And I’ve told people about it over the past week, mentioned it in a sermon, and now shared it with you. This was big! For me at least!
But how did they know that this was my moment of greater need? How did they know that this would be a gift of much greater value because of my need?
They didn’t. They just came out the make a difference and stumbled on a need. And because of that their action took on new value.
And that’s my point here. As we walk (or sprint, it seems) through these last days of Christmas, think of the gift of “random acts of kindness,” of reaching out to make what seems to be a small difference in the lives of others. Have you done that before? Probably. Will you do it again? Hopefully. And will it make a difference in someone’s life? Certainly!
But what you don’t know, and probably can’t know, and maybe most of the time won’t ever know, is when that act of kindness comes at a crucial moment, not in your life, but in the life of the person you touch. Like the kids who happened to shovel my driveway on the very day I was trying to figure out how to get that done, you might just be there at the very moment someone really needs you to be there. You won’t know, you can’t know, you may never know, but your gift will suddenly take on new and greater value.
So, how do you know when and where to be?
Maybe the answer is the power of “coincidence” and “blind luck.”
Or maybe not. Maybe this the power – and presence – of the Holy Spirit! Who is to say that those kids didn’t just happen to show up on their own, but that in fact the Spirit was working in them that day. Who is to say that the Spirit doesn’t work in you and in me – guiding, nudging, sometime even gently whacking us to move in a particular direction, even without us realizing it, that we might not just make a difference, but for someone in need, make a big difference. For them, at that moment.
As you ponder the gifts you share this season – and then the gifts you continue to share into the new year – keep those “random acts of kindness” on your list. Know that you are a gift. And maybe, as the Spirit works in you, you are a much bigger gift than you imagined, making a difference beyond what you can see. I know those kids working on my driveway did, and I am thankful to them, and I am also thankful to the Spirit!