Did you know that I have the upmost and impressionable respect for those who rise out of bed before 600am in the morning? I do. Did you know that I have even higher respect for those who rise out of bed before 600am in the morning when its at least below 30 degrees Fahrenheit ? I do.
Not to put any special recognition on myself, but I will take a moment to declare that this morning, I had to get up at 530am. It was blacker than the boldest cup of espresso that I have ever consumed along the border city of Ipiales, Colombia, and please do understand that there, excessive blackness of espresso guarantees your heart pulse to rise at least 30 points a minute. This morning was black, and I fumbled through my sister and brother-in-law’s house and bumped into my niece’s highchair with my nearly frozen second toe on my left foot. I managed to throw on some clothes that resembled some order of blackened self dressing in the middle of the night, and I wandered out to the car. One would have thought that I wandered as I staggered into my father’s car with photographs and brochures of what I do on the hill in South America.
Not only was I running later than I wanted, I realized that it was going to be at least 15 minutes before I was able to inject the large coffee with one sugar into my system. While I was enthusiastic about getting to the men’s prayer breakfast that my father had organized for me to meet with, I was not thrilled to be freezing, with a painfully throbbing second toe on my left foot, and without caffeine. It was going to be a long drive over to the address of the café that I had already forgotten the directions for arrival on time. In a daze, I turned right out onto the main highway and inched my way toward my destination, and managed to miss a fuzzy rodent that should have been hibernating for the winter as he or she dashed toward some pine tree on the right side of the road. I was thankful that I didn’t murder him to save his family the grief although I was disappointed that he caused me to swerve into the left lane, delaying my estimated time of arrival to the men’s prayer breakfast.
Reflecting and praying for words to share with the gentlemen at the prayer breakfast, I thought back to some verses in the bible that talk about not worrying what to say or how to say it. A delicate balance of walking the fine line, advocating for the people I love that don’t have running water or sewage, while not deeply offending the people that I’m sharing with because they live in such wealth but don’t help marginalized people, which is in direct defiance and opposition to what Jesus said in the Bible. Nonetheless, I was praying about how to convey the responsibility we have to share Christ to the marginalized communities and to speak this in love.
As I was driving past an old familiar highway intersection, I noticed an engraved memory of the past stimulating my neural passageways.
Ridgcrest Retirement Village. Flashbulbs of memories began popping across my mind like a bad connection of indoor Christmas lights that have been frazzled between last year’s Christmas tree tinsel and your old cat’s hair from 3 years ago.
My father used to take me to Ridecrest Village Retirement Village as a boy. No, no, it wasn’t a punishment, although I may have seen it as that when I was young. He used to visit an elderly lady named, well, I can’t remember, and its not just writer’s block I’m having right now. At any rate, he used to take me along with him on some afternoons to visit this lady and I would be strung along to be company of some kind. Sometimes I managed long enough on my pixie sugar stacked attention span to sit on the edge of the bed of this lady’s room and quietly admire the increasingly growing number of knitted items that managed to collect bunnies and bunnies of dust balls.
I remember wondering as a boy how one would even begin to get out the Endust to spray down those dust balls. I wouldn’t even know where to start spraying for the extermination of dust balls, but nonetheless, it wasn’t my problem because I wasn’t about to touch those little knitted people.
Aside from the small knitted people that scared me, I had to contend with the Listerine soaked dentures that somehow always crept into my space and sometimes I spilled the green Listerine liquid onto my shirt. This nursing home was, in my opinion, a very dangerous place. People lost teeth and maybe it was the little knitted people that did it. I had no idea.
Sometimes Dad would talk with this lady and sometimes he wouldn’t. I think they created a friendship over the years that withstood the absence of spoken words. I got the sense that this lady knew what Dad was there and she knew that he accepted and loved her despite her aging condition. I remember when the Ridgecrest Village got a Golden Lab dog that made its residence among the retirement community. That dog somehow made its way along the corridors, searching for scraps of leftover food and sometimes, I remember, I assisted the dog in that process. One time, I recall getting scolded by some crabby nurse for giving the dog too much help.
Dad was so kind to this lady and I never knew why. I didn’t understand why he came to see her perhaps once a week or so, and I never understood the underlying reasons of this act of kindness. Now, at the age that I am today, I see the incredible impact that my father had on the consistent demonstration of love and care he presented to the lady. He never complained about his visits and he never had a negative word to share about the regular time commitment that he made to visit her. Certainly, there may have been weeks, months, and years that my father could have found more productive use of his time, energy, and resources, than to sit with a lady who struggled with her journey in the nursing home. I remember his patience and his acceptance as he walked the last few years of her twilight walk into death. The beautiful aspect to watch is that my father practiced the presence of Jesus while practicing the word of God that shares to be His arms and feet to those in need. My father may never know the impact that he had in the ongoing visits with this lady, but I can testify that his act of service to others has impacted me forever. His practical demonstration of love in action has influenced me and I believe that his enduring love of serving others has partially shaped who I am today. His ongoing commitment to giving and putting others before himself has encouraged me to live on a dusty and dirty hill. Risking my life daily, to bring others to know Christ has become my passion and desire until I die, and I thank my father for his role in teaching me the selfless act of giving in love.
To God be the glory, great things He hath done.
As I arrived to the café where I was to share about what I do on a hill in the ghetto of South America, my mind was full of gratitude for my father on earth and my Father in Heaven.
Even at 620am in the morning.