Today I want to follow the theme of hidden acts of sacredness, of mercy and grace, with a story from yesterday. The photo is just to remind us of the “hidden” theme, like a walk in the Smoky Mountains when sacred moments find us and no one else is watching.
I was hoping to have a few moments of noticing what is sacred yesterday. I knew I would forget to be awake many times through the day, like we all do. But I also set my intention to wake up whenever possible. I want you to know what happened at the nursing home.
I found Collette, a former Catholic nun, who is now my 88 year-old church member and friend, at a table in the dining room with two other women. I pulled up a chair. She is always so appreciative of the visits. On this round she was in hospitals for five weeks before being transferred to this nursing home. Before that she was a daily faithful visitor as her husband Charles went through years of hospitalizations and stays in the same nursing home.
She looked up to greet me with, “Look who’s here,” and a radiant smile. One thing about Collette, she braves her way through the hardest situations with that same smile and plenty of giggles. If I didn’t know better I would say she is on “happy” meds. But she has been this way since the day I met her eight years ago.
Can I just say that sitting in a wheelchair in a nursing home someday, I will probably not be so exuberant.
I introduced myself to her tablemates. Both were fully cognizant, which might be a blessing, or in a nursing home that might not be so great. Then we were visited by Charle’ and everything changed. I learned from Kay, one of the tablemates, that you pronounce her name Char-lay. Naturally, it couldn’t be just Charlie, because this is New Orleans and everything has to have some unexpected, French-sounding accent.
Charle’ is a young adult volunteer with her own smock and name badge. She has experienced Down’s Syndrome, but is functioning at a high level. She exudes the best qualities of people with Down’s Syndrome: open-heartedness, a sense of wonder in each moment, a rambunctious and playful appreciation of life’s daily twists, and an infectious desire to lay a hug on anyone who is open. She makes the perfect nursing home volunteer.
Charle’ asked if I was Collette’s son. I explained I was her pastor. She admitted I didn’t look like a pastor with my red t-shirt and red tennis shoes. I agreed. (Not looking like a preacher makes me proud, and not in the good way). She launched into a brief story about being Catholic and pulled out her iPhone to show me a Google map of how to get to her Catholic Church. She was a wizard with her phone apps.
Another older volunteer came up to Charle’ and they gave each other a high five, and exchanged the longest, deepest hug you can imagine. Charle’ leaned into the woman like it was her long-lost friend. It was beautiful, sacred, an image of divine love, and as natural a moment as you could want to see. Clearly, I was witnessing what goes on all day long between Charle’ and the residents and staff of this nursing home.
If we had eyes to see loving-kindness as a physical substance flowing with great effect through the world, we could have seen purple strands of love-energy gushing from Charle’s heart and infecting the people around her, including me. The color is purple because it is royal, the color of queens and kings. The substance was coming from the gates of heaven, from which love-energy is generated, and spilling forth through Charle’s heart.
Can you see the scene? How I wish we could see what is actually happening at an energetic level when purple strands of love-energy are flowing from one being to another. Now that would make the news, should make the news, but then again: that is news whether television crews ever show up or not.
I guess this kind of news is what Jesus was talking about when he spoke of having “the eyes to see.” He was seeing the kingdom of God all around him and using stories to help us see too.
If Jesus were telling this story it might go like this: “The kingdom of God is like a Down’s woman named Charle’ spreading loving-kindness wherever she goes, even in the most depressing places. The Son of Man will return in disguise. Only those who have eyes to see will recognize me.”
Only as I write these words do I realize, I think I just saw Mr. Jesus yesterday. He is cute, his face looks a bit different from all those paintings, and by God he did come again. He has a great personality and gifts people with the greatest hugs. He is having a blast in every moment of his life. And he really likes iPhone apps. He is doing what you might expect: spreading hidden sacredness all around.
So keep your eyes open. And I will try to keep mine open too. If we are really blessed today we might just see Mr. Jesus again, standing before us, just in a different form than the first time around. How will you know him if he doesn’t look like those old paintings? Watch for whoever is spreading hidden sacredness all around. (For many of you this means you should look in the mirror today, because this story is really about you)!