Monday, November 06, 2006

Every Connection Matters

This morning, I read on the superhero journal (www.superherodesigns.com/journal) about the way Andrea Scher interacts with people at the post office. She acknowledges rightly that every connection we make, every interaction we have with other people matters. If we miss a meeting or party, people do notice. When we speak to someone with respect and honor - or with anger and disdain - we leave a mark. We leave a footprint on their lives.

Yesterday at church, my daughter and I had a chance to speak to the new worship leader. He moved to Charlotte with his wife and three daughters this past summer from Michigan. Tim and Vicki are both enormously talented singers and musicians, and they bring a joy and energy to the worship ministry that is refreshing, joyful to watch, and pleasing to the Lord. I have had a couple of chances to speak with them both, but more frequently with him, and have been careful to offer words of encouragement and gratitude for his hard work and willingness to lead us in music and singing each Sunday. I thanked him for the ways in which his presence at our church blessed and benefitted my spiritual life.

But Tim and Vicki are also human beings. They have daughters who are transitioning - sometimes smoothly and sometimes not-so-smoothly - to their new life here in Charlotte. They are trying to find their way around this new place with its odd street configurations and sometimes confusing southern ways. They are facing new concerns and issues at a new church. They are criticized and judged for their words and actions. In our conversation, I honored all of those factors, told him we are praying for him and his family, and promised to continue to do so. Not surprisingly, I could tell as I spoke to him that he was uncomfortable with receiving compliments. He was much more comfortable in thanking me for my prayers for their family than receiving my accolades.

Why is it so difficult for us to simply say thanks for the kind words that are offered to us? Why is it so hard to believe that our lives matter to others? I think the only way we will ever change our tendency to disbelieve our value is by looking people in the eye and telling them exactly why they matter to us - over and over. Life is too short to hold back on loving others; by the time we get around to telling them how we feel, it may be too late. They - or we - could be dead, have moved away, or be so overwhelmed with feelings of worthlessness that either they cannot hear our words or we cannot speak them. I am determined to not wait that long.

Last week, a friend of mine sent me an email in which she described some challenges she is currently facing. I wrote her one of my typical long, descriptive, overly emotional missives, and then I called her and left her a message telling her that she is in my thoughts and prayers. When she called me back, she expressed sincere gratitude for my gestures of kindness towards her, and we talked for quite a while. Yes, every connection, every contact makes a difference.

When I read the blogs other people write and send comments
When I read the emails that friends send and write back to them
When I listen to phone messages and respond with a card sent "snail mail"
When I smile at the person checking me out at the supermarket
When I return to that cashier and remind him or her of a previous exchange
When I sincerely thank the store employee who loads my groceries into the car
or recommends a bottle of wine
or weighs and wraps my fish selection
or asks me if I've found everything I needed at the market
When I visit a neighbor and comment on the kitchen renovations she is doing
When I thank the doctor or dentist for helping me stay healthy
When I hug the folks at church and listen to their stories
I am fully aware that every one of those interactions leaves a mark.
Every smile, snarl, compliment, and curse matters.

I have a friend in Spain who told me a long time ago that every night when he goes to bed, he takes a few moments to consider if he has made someone smile at some point during that day. Was it a child in a stroller, a co-worker, a client, a friend, or his wife? Whose day was improved, even if only for a moment, because of something he said or did? Good question, Jorge, very good question.

To that list, I will add the name of the One whose approval of my life matters than all others. On a daily basis I wonder, "Have I done anything today that made God smile? That was pleasing to Him? Did I love with a whole heart? Did I forgive someone for a wrong done to me? Did I refrain from gossip or slander? Did I reach out to someone in need and lend a hand? Did I write an email or a blog or a card that would lift someone's spirits? Did I give thanks for the many blessings I received today?"

Psalm 19:14 says, Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.

Ephesians 4:29 follows that: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Certainly every day I blow it. I say mean things. I certainly think mean things. A lot of the time, I want to walk - no, run - away from my life and start all over as a single, childless, and carefree woman in a breezy apartment overlooking el Paseo de la Castellana in Madrid. I am selfish and thoughtless; as proof of that, I confess that I like to shop more than I like to clean the house.

But the deepest desire of my heart is to honor God with every decision I make.
Beyond that, I long to become the strongest, most joyful, gracious, and creative woman I can be, and in turn love, honor, respect, and build others up.

Every night I want my last thought to be a question:
Have I made at least one connection, had at least one interaction,
or made at least one decision today that honored God and encouraged someone else?

Every time I can honestly answer "Yes" will have been a good day.

Thanks, Andrea, for your blog and the challenge to make every connection count.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

Yes sweet Gail,
Every connection makes a difference. Thank you for your email and thank you for your call.
I actually read the blog to see if I made it. Isn't that silly?
love and thanks,
Nancy