Winter intends to have its say; that is the sense of things this week. We are preparing for another snowstorm. Wind and cold and dangerous roads will mean we don’t go out unless we have to. Those who do have to go out — the plow trucks and the drivers — will be up at all hours. What sturdy souls they are, those who plow the roads.
It’s predicted that by the time you read these lines the storm will be over. Yet the work of digging out, the effects of the high winds, and the possible power outages may still be affecting our lives. I think of all the people I know who are housebound in our area and I hope they will be safe and warm.
I think of the patients I’ve met with at the hospital; some of them have real needs — housing, food, and someone to break the isolation that engulfs a person who lives alone in a rural place.
I’m certain that all of us know at least one person who needs our concern. If we all take responsibility to look in on our neighbors, to call the person we know who lives alone and ensure they have the essentials they need to manage such a storm as this, we might realize that there are needs we must address.
What skills do we have within ourselves that help us hear, for example, that loneliness is weighing on our friends and neighbors? Are we able to recognize and respond to the deep needs of another soul? Sometimes the ability to discern real needs is not simple, straight-forward, or easily understood.
In a world that is preoccupied with self and fulfillment of one’s own happiness, the quality of our hearts is in direct proportion to our willingness to serve. That service may be in the form of opening our eyes and our ears and giving our energy to someone who needs us.
I talk with many people every week in my work as a chaplain and I attempt to listen to what is being said, the way it is said, and sometimes my heart is prompted to hear that portion of a person’s life that is not put into words.
I tend to call this the prompting of God, or the Holy Spirit – a call on my heart that cannot be ignored. When it comes, it is unmistakable.
How shall I — shall we — know that it is actually Divine will that is speaking to us? The world is full of charlatans who claim that God “told” them to say or do such and such. It is often the case that those who have “heard directly” from God about something to do with another are actually looking away from the selfish desires of their own soul.
I’m suggesting here that it requires a certain kind of inner preparation that helps us see what we ourselves can give. Real giving to real needs will require sacrifice. We’ll need to give up something.
It may be that we’ll need to give up lofty attitudes that are self-serving. If our actions are all about us, for example, it isn’t God’s voice we’re listening to.
I do believe that God is being revealed to us each day through our interactions with others. We can miss the mark if we lean completely on our own understanding of what we “think” someone needs. We can blunder into interfering and being overbearing. In these cases, the reliance on our mind, instead of our hearts, is the mistaken path we’ve taken.
I pray today, as the storm comes on and rages this week on our homes and our lives, that there will be some reflection within us all — about the nature of how we can truly be of service to others. One rule of thumb is we don’t do for others what they can easily do for themselves. A second rule might be that we open our senses — our vision, our hearing, our feeling heart — and stay willing to respond.
Last but not least is the reminder that we must not quench the spirit when we are being called to sacrifice something for another in need.