From the Pulpitt:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why: I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’
“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’
Matthew 25:35-40 The Message (MSG)
“When Did We See you…?”
by Rick Pittenger
Visiting in the homes and nursing homes is one of the highlights of my ministry. This week I was at 3 nursing homes in 3 different communities: Elk Point, Wakonda and Vermillion. Some days I make it to Yankton too.
During my visits, I like to watch people, and visit with folks in the hallways or lobbies on my way to see “my” parishioners. I don’t always stop, sometimes honestly I’m a little rushed, but I do on occasion stop to listen to their story.
For example, recently, as I was on my way to the nursing home front door, I noticed an older gentleman, another resident, sitting outside in the north side shade as he watched a gym class playing a new kind of baseball game on the baseball diamond adjacent to the Nursing Home. A young student stood at the plate with a tennis racket in his hands; and the gym teacher stood about 10 feet away with a yellow tennis ball in his hand. In came the pitch, a swing and a miss! The old man turned to me and kind of shook his head with a smile. “That’s not how I remember it!” I told him. “Nope” he said with a smile…. And with that I walked into the nursing home to visit Florence.
She’s in the same room that another parishioner used to live in there in Wakonda. Florence was a school teacher, 3rd grade, right here in Vermillion until she retired. She used to walk to church as she lived in pretty close proximity to the church. Then she moved to the Vermillion Assisted living just north of Cherry Street. She had her little apartment there. When she lived there, she had one big room and a bathroom just off to the side; a bed on one end, her two straight backed chairs on the other end. Our youth group would sing Christmas Carols and she’d bless them with some peanut M&M’s. Once a teacher, always a teacher taking care of “her kids;” she’s now in the nursing home. Florence never married and so her closest family is her nephew and his wife who live in Montana. They had just called while I was there, to check on her and to tell her that they loved her and were thinking of her.
Oh, the man watching the baseball game or tennis-base-ball was gone by the time I left.
Then I drove up to Wakonda to visit with Arlyce. She’s getting stronger each day and is able to walk without assistance again and they are talking as though she’ll be able to come home soon. She invited me down for coffee. We sat with her “table mate” Dorothy, who is from Freeman originally. A Lutheran lady with 6 children, they’re spread throughout the country but she has two living in Yankton that keep tabs on her. She's very hard of hearing so to introduce myself I slid a business card across the table. Arlyce and I talked some about her progress and her hopes and dreams when she gets out. She's so nice and grace-filled.
As I drove away from the nursing home, I noticed a man sitting by himself on a park bench to the side of the building. I thought he looked so lonely. I thought to myself, "I should have stopped." Why is it we always think that AFTER we drive away? Like I said, I sometimes stop, but not always. I'm/we're all a little too busy rushing from place to place without getting to know our neighbors.
"Are you her son?" said my next encounter. People assume if you visit in the nursing home you must be family. I'm hoping that changes over time. I mean, I like my family and all but I want someone to visit me who doesn't feel "obligated" but rather feel they want to. Jesus asked us to love our neighbors; to visit the sick, those in prison, and the poor. I'd like to think that's why we visit each other, so we can get to know their story and to understand their beliefs. Another thing I've found out is that everyone has "their story;" a story to share. We all just need someone to listen to us; to walk alongside us and to be our friends. I'm working on that, talking to strangers, it's not always easy or comfortable.
God didn't ask us to be comfortable.
God asked if we'd be faithful.
Hope to see you in the hallway along the well-worn paths,