Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Acknowledged, Invisible, Valued

We all want to be acknowledged, to feel that we are welcome and wanted, that we bring something to the table, that we have value. We want to be invited into community, to be accepted.

We fear being invisible, being ignored or dismissed, unaccepted, unwanted, and inadvertently devalued. We fear being overlooked and being pushed to the outside, forced to look in but not allowed inside.

It’s a simple act, to acknowledge someone: it’s a nod, a smile, a handshake, a voiced “hello” or “hi”. It takes little effort, but it in turn communicates acceptance, love, value. What begins as superficiality has the potential to bloom into an invitations of community.

We all crave intimate community. God designed us to be connected, to fellowship, to bear one another’s burdens. We were not designed to be alone or isolated.

So why, if it is so simple, do we hesitate to acknowledge? Why do we limit or deny community to those around us? Why do we stop short?

Sometimes we are too busy, sometimes we are comfortable in our own community and have grown complacent, and ironically, sometimes we are afraid to reach out in fear that we won’t be received.

We all want to be valued.

The last few years of my nomadic life have resulted in many social experiences. Some have left me feeling acknowledged and some have left me feeling invisible. In retrospect, I am grateful for all of them. Both the feelings of acknowledgement and the feelings of invisibility have taught me so much about the importance of healthy human interaction, about my own value, and the innate need for true community.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Kindredness

The moment our eyes locked I felt a kindredness.

I did not know her. She was old and wrinkled, her hair was somewhat disheveled, her gait was unsteady, her pearly whites weren’t so much.

But the closer she came to me, the closer she drew me to her.

It was a soul connection.

She came to stand right in front of me. We smiled and then we embraced. In truth, it was the most genuine and uninhibited hug I have had in a long time. The kind of hug that warms you from the inside out; It was a whole heart hug.

And then I noticed her caretaker standing behind, “She has dementia. She used to teach at the school.” She said this to me apologetically, as if to dismiss any awkwardness that I had felt. I smiled. She was the only one with the awkwardness. “Oh” I said, “I didn’t know”.

My new friend and I smiled a moment more and then she went about her unsteady way.

I don’t know what it is with dementia, but it often has a way of drawing me in. There is a purity with dementia that is likened to that of a child; an uninhibitedness that leads to a  genuineness. It is a beautiful aspect to such a degrading disease.

I find it easy to interact with children, with elderly, those with dementia. I find it difficult at times to interact with adolescents, teenagers, and even peers.

We read in the book of Ephesians:
11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the [d]saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ

We further read in 1 Corinthians chapter 12:
14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?
18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”
22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.

There have been times in my life which I wished that I could interact better with young people, that I understood more what to say, how to say, how to be. But even in wishing that, I wouldn’t trade it for my ability to interact with the child, with the elder, with those with the dementia. We are all called to something.

She left me with a smile. This woman with dementia brightened my day. I do not know who she was, who she is. I do know, though, that for a moment she was simply a Christian sister and we embraced as Christian sisters should.

The arms of Jesus wrapped around me today.