A different kind of eyes

“Today, kids, I want you to find one way to be of help to someone else.”

My older brother and I were buckled up in the backseat of our family’s new Dodge Aries K station wagon: light blue with a wood stripe. (OK, who am I kidding? We were sitting unbuckled in the ‘way-back’.) He was in third grade, I was in first grade, and it was the last year we would spend in Henderson, Nevada. My dad’s retirement from the United States Air Force would soon be a reality and we would move to the east coast to be nearer to both sets of grandparents. But for today, we were in our Sunday clothes, on our way to the new church our parents had helped build with other volunteers and church members. As we rode through the flat and sand-colored landscapes, my parents asked us to go into church differently than usual – to be on the lookout for people who might need help and then to help them.

We entered the sanctuary with all the others coming in to worship in the new space they had built together. My brother did his helpful deed right away: he held the door for a couple walking in. Mom went to sing in the choir while my dad, brother and I took our seats in the new pews. To my right was an elderly woman sitting alone. After all the prayers had been sung, the anthems sung, the sermon preached and the offering collected, it was time for the final hymn. The woman next to me seemed to be fumbling and having a hard time finding the right page. This was it! This was my moment! I couldn’t leave this service without helping. I took her hymnal from her, turned to the correct song and handed it back with a smile. She smiled back at me and we all stood to sing together. I looked at my dad like did you catch that? I HELPED!

This morning I saw a clip of a good news story about an 11-year-old girl named Ruby who goes with her mom, Amanda, to her work in nursing homes. She started asking the residents their 3 biggest wishes and she was surprised by their responses. None of their lists included fancy cars, houses or money. They wanted fresh fruit, hygiene products, and the little cans of vienna sausages. This young lady – the same age as my oldest son – started a charity, raised money online, and bought all the items the residents had wished for. She returned to the nursing home to deliver the goods – stacked in boxes on a wheelchair which she used as her cart. The residents were overwhelmed with gratitude as Ruby had met some of their most basic human needs: the need to be remembered, to be cherished. And my guess is that Ruby learned the same thing I learned in that new church building 32 years ago: that we are sufficiently equipped to meet the needs that our neighbors are brave enough to make known. Being a helper is not only for grown-ups or for the richest or for the strongest among us. It is for all of us. Right now.

In the midst of my eyes welling up over Ruby’s work, my mind went straight back to my parents’ words to me: Find a way to help. Use your eyes to see more than just what this world has for you. Use your eyes to see someone else.

In honor of my parents on this Palm Sunday, I gave my kids the same encouragement while they were buckled in the backseat of my car: Use your eyes to see others. Look for ways to help. {AND PLEASE GOD WHEN MY KIDS LOOK BACK AT OLD PHOTOS DON’T LET MY ACURA BE AS UNCOOL AS MY PARENTS’ DODGE, AMEN}.

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