A Message for You

Brighten people’s days 

by REV. LAUREL TENHAVE-CHAPMAN
First Congregational Church of Rockford

She had never had children of her own but she knew every child at the church. The college kids would come home for the Christmas Eve service and she would greet each one by name. Her fiancé had died decades earlier and she had lived alone her whole adult life. But she made a community wherever she went. She sang in the church choir until she was in her eighties. She worked her way through coffee hour, asking people how they were doing and commenting on something about their lives.

Over time she became stooped almost to a 90-degree angle. She had to leave her home for a retirement facility. She had lived in the same place for 40 years. How do you begin to make new friends at that age? The answer is quite simple: you keep trying! In no time, she was greeting her new neighbors by name. I marveled over how she could know new people whose faces she couldn’t even see! Her stooped posture cast her gaze to the floor. If she really cranked her neck up, she could maybe see your waistline. How did she already know who was who in this bustling retirement home? She recognized their voices… and their shoes! In no time she was brightening people’s days by noticing them and affirming them—just as she had done in every other setting her whole life.

With the start of a new school and program year we reinvest in activities. There are always opportunities to go in new directions and to meet new people. If we worry about how others will like us, we may not venture beyond the places where we are already known. When we go into a setting trusting that God has brought us there for a purpose, we will interact in a different way. Rather than waiting around for others to welcome us, we will greet folks in an effort to make them feel more at home. We will do whatever it takes to treat them as beloved children of God.

If Jean could get to know them from their shoes, we have no excuses! If God’s eye is on the sparrow, God certainly watches over those around us. So don’t worry about what scintillating conversation you will initiate. Look them in the eye, smile at them and let them know they matter. If it helps you, take a look at their shoes!

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