MAILMAN ALEX!!! DO YOU HAVE MY HENRY TRAIN!!! Reuben belted out whenever he saw our friendly mailman Alex heading down our sidewalk wondering if his missing train had arrived in the mail. (thank you carole for sending it!) This summer I noticed our mailman sitting in his mail truck munching on a sandwich reading sports illustrated on his lunch break. At times I was a little irritated that he’d park in front of his house, guilty that I was inside enjoying air conditioning while he was sitting in a hot mail truck, or wondered if anyone ever invited him in for a meal or glass of water.
While I was still on sabbatical one of the most significant differences I noticed in my life was the ability to spontaneously care for and serve the needs of others. Though I was writing papers and reading a lot, my thoughts weren’t occupied with the next talk I had to write and deliver, the next set of fundraising appointments or meetings to attend. I found myself being much more attentive of the small ways I could care for people. It felt great to cook a meal for a friend and her family after hearing she had thrown her back out. I enjoyed time to stop and talk with my elderly grandmother without needing to rush off to the next thing.
On one of those days we saw Alex the weather had turned colder yet he still sat huddled in his truck, eating his sandwich listening to his iPod. We had some leftover soup and Dave was home for lunch that day so I asked him to invite Alex in for lunch with us. Though it wasn’t much, Alex seemed glad to share a meal with us and tell us a little about his life. Turns out he has a son a little older than Reuben that he had with his ex-wife so we had a lot to talk about what it’s like to have a preschool boy. Reuben also thought it was pretty cool that Mailman Alex got to eat lunch with us.
Now that I’m back at work, pregnant and managing all the other areas of life the mental and emotional space to spontaneously care for others seems to be squeezed out by deadlines, errands and the feeling that I won’t be able to accomplish all that I have in a given day. Things like being able to invite our mailman in to eat lunch with my son and husband seem like one extra thing to do in the day beyond all that I already have going on. But that’s the difficult thing about caring for others- it’s rarely convenient. This was probably the biggest thing I learned during my sabbatical year- my ministry often gets in the way of my witness. Though I am doing good things with college students what happens when I’m off the clock? What about all the people around me that need to see Jesus demonstrated in practical ways, want someone to genuinely listen and care for them and simply recognize that they are present? I know I can’t do this all the time, but each time I see Alex’s mail truck in front of our house I find myself wondering what it will take to invite him into our lives again without running through the mental to-do list first.
How about you? Where do you find yourself struggling to make space for spontaneous service? What are ways it’s just become a normal part of your life? There are so many people I know that do an amazing job of just making it a priority like they do with any other important thing in their life.