Do We Understand?
The only working elevator opened. Kay and I stepped inside with our cart of boxed dinners. Cindy needed to go down so she got inside the elevator, too.
And said this to us, “I hope he doesn’t offend y’all.”
She was talking about her dad.
Kay and I had just spent time with Mr. M, like we do every Wednesday afternoon. He’s elderly and wheelchair-bound. We talk about the weather, about what’s on the news, about our latest trips. It’s really just a few minutes. We give Mr. M his meal, then we move on to the next door.
But Cindy wanted us to understand more.
She is already in her dad’s apartment most of the afternoons when we come. Arriving after work, Cindy is quietly busy in his kitchen, organizing, cleaning, cooking. Smiling.
She continues in the elevator:
“Dad is really a good man. He’s just lonely. He’s by himself a lot. I try to come every day but I work 10-hour days and it’s hard.”
She’s seen how her dad jokes with us about keeping his suitcase packed, ready to travel with us our next trip. How he asks for hugs. How he wants us to come in and talk as long as we’re willing.
And honestly? Sometimes he is a hard visit.
Mr. M can barely hear us so we have to yell. We grimace at each other through his bear hugs. And he can slow us down when we think we need to hurry.
People Are Offensive
Some people truly are offensive. They cause pain and shame and spread ugliness. We aren’t to overlook it. Issues need to be addressed and problems need to be solved. And sometimes we have to walk away.
Other people simply expect too much from us. They don’t hear us. Their humor or personality or politics is different than ours.
Mr. M sometimes gets our stories mixed up. He asked me Wednesday, “How’s your mother doing?” even though I’ve told him several times that she died in 2010. It’s not my mom but the chronic pain of Kay’s mom that we’ve talked about with Mr. M.
Then he asked Kay about her vacation the previous week, even though I was the one out of town, and she was the one here who delivered his meal.
Yet here’s what we’re learning. Mr. M may talk too loudly and hug too tightly and confuse who is who.
But Mr. M is NOT offensive.
He is more than we see.
He is someone’s dad. He was once someone’s husband. He was an employee and a boss (he tells us he was a detective for years in our town). He’s now a friend to the neighbors on his floor.
- He is all the things he once was.
- He is all the things he is now.
- He is all the things he will be when he leaves earth.
He is another of God’s children, here in our path today, that we are to love and be loved by.
And as time goes by, that task is getting easier and easier.
When we weed out offense, we plant in holy ground.
And grace grows there.
Love Covers the Difference
The past few weeks, Mr. M has started something new with us. The long afternoons of August were extremely hot. Our sweat proved it.
Instead of waiting for us on the 6th floor of his apartment building, he wheeled down in his wheelchair to our car as we unloaded the dinners on the cart. He held two cold water bottles in his hand. One for me and one for Kay. He didn’t want us to overheat. We accepted his gift.
And the next week, he met us in the lobby, again with bottles of water. He puts them in his refrigerator early in the day so they’ll be cold when we arrive. He gave us two again last week.
As we were trying to love him, he was trying to love us, too.
And God let both happen.
I still may notice the crumbs on Mr. M’s shirt. But what I see underneath is a heart that loves enthusiastically.
If God can call me beloved and beautiful, not offended by my selfishness and hard-heartedness and brokenness, then can’t I do likewise?
- Take the water.
- Give the hug.
- Speak a little louder.
To his daughter Cindy, know this: we understand. We see—through you—that your dad was once a good man. And we agree with you: he is still a good man.
No, your dad doesn’t offend us. He loves us. We love him.
This is what matters.
“Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything.”
1 Peter 4:8 (The Message)
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Who have you grown to love more as the years go by? Please share in the comments.
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