I stood in an all too typical, abhorrently long line at the post office last week, wondering what genius decided that postal clerks should take their lunch breaks at the exact same time as the rest of the world - who use their lunch break to do things like, oh, say, go to the post office. I chewed my lip and checked my phone and rocked back and forth from foot to foot, feeling the shine wear off of my good mood, when out of nowhere, a woman began to whistle, the sound crisp, crystal clear and echoing gloriously through the cavernous marble hall.
"I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart," her melody sang without uttering a word. I knew the tune - we all know the tune - inherently; as if it were tattooed on the linings of our hearts.
Down in our hearts, to stay.
My mood instantly elevated. Smiles were shared, tensions abated, and suddenly, standing in line, shoulder to shoulder with fellow travelers on this journey called Life, the need to exercise a little patience seemed a small price to pay for being reminded of a multitude of simple lessons.
Not the least of which is this one: we may not always be able to control what happens to us, but we can always control how we respond to it. That piece of it is up to us, and the choice we make can have a ripple effect throughout our lives, for better or for worse.
Find the joy. Make your peace.
Then get to work.
The article about Faith in Action appeared in the paper on Wednesday of last week. My phone rang off the hook for about a day and a half, and it's been the most terrifying and rewarding experience, rolled into one.
I was really nervous about what might happen when the proverbial floodgates were thrown open. What if we had more calls than we could handle? What if the nonprofit collapsed under the weight of its lack of preparedness before it even got started. What if nobody called? What if nobod cared?
All a bunch of pre-packaged, needless worries.
We didn't get more calls than we could handle. But we did get calls. And emails. We got lots of inquiries from interested volunteers. We got lots of inquiries from people requesting services.
We even got one call from someone wanting to give us money. Which, yanno, we'd be hard pressed to decline.
The response has rolled in at an acceptable, manageable pace. It's clear the community needs what we're offering. And it's getting clearer every day that the community is ready and willing to step up to fill the need.
One of the very first calls I got came from a woman named Maxine, and within five minutes, I realized she could be the poster person for Faith in Action of the Greater Kanawha Valley. We went to visit with her, to conduct our first intake assessment interview.
She is 90 years old, lives alone, and values her independence. She cooks, cleans, irons, and shops for herself. Her husband was a POW back in WWII, imprisoned in Germany for 9 months during the war. It changed him, she says. It changed her, too. She's a proud patriot, a Rosie the Riveter, and involved in a couple different veteran's organizations.
But she gave up her driver's license a couple of years ago. Voluntarily, because her sight is failing. "I didn't want to be responsible for hurting someone else, or myself, either," she said. "But it was hard. It's like giving up your independence. Not being able to drive yourself is very isolating."
She relies on cabs, family and friends for rides to the doctor or the grocery store, but cabs are expensive and her family is busy with work and school. They can't always be available when she needs them to be, and she fully understands that.
She is interested in getting some help with transportation, and may an occasional friendly visit, or trip to the grocery store. "When I read about you in the paper this morning, it just spoke to me, like a blessing. There is such a great need for what you do and I wish you all the luck in the world."
Then she wrapped me in a great big hug.
And that - right there - is the why of it all.
I have never felt more sure of the forward steps I'm taking on this journey than I do right here, right now, this place, this time, this moment. I have never felt more sure of the power of grace at work in my life.
I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.
Down in my heart, to stay.
*Title quote borrowed, with joy, from George Willis Cooke.