Thursday, May 26, 2016

An Open Letter to Cheryl

Dear Cheryl,

     Thank you!  I didn't know, but you did.  I was young, full of myself and grand visions.  You were older, wiser and so patient with all of us.  It was racism - I see that now.  Then, I was too naive.  You had seen it before and I imagine you've seen it since.  I didn't realize or value the jewel that you are. You didn't fit into my understanding of life - I was on the college track to greatness.

    You were on the track to eternal glory.  You moved to our city with a master's degree in education to be near your child and grandchild.  You lived in a rented room and didn't even have a car.  You were my assistant in an after school program and a substitute teacher.  You were passionately following God.

    Why would a 21 year old without a degree be in charge when you so obviously had so much more experience, education and ability?  Even though I made a grand mess of things, you barely spoke a word and allowed me to learn my own hard lessons. You knew that your words would be a little like throwing pearls before swine - I wasn't in a place to listen.  I needed to be humbled and I was. I wish I would have asked.  Instead, I read books and looked to others - there you were ready and more than able to help. Patient. Kind. I didn't see, please forgive me. You did what I asked - served snacks - when you were able to do so much more. Faithful.

     The church was trying to help the poor in our community - but it was an us helping them mentality.  You always spoke to us about hospitality being something that decent human beings just do.  We were caught up in the socio-economic speak and our own "helpfulness".  You said your piece and went on.  I heard and remember. Gentle.  Just once I saw our conversation make you mad.   Righteous anger.

     That year you talked about God teaching you that you were part of His kingdom and sent to share His word - that you were an apostle in that sense.  I heard that message and saw you live it in a way no one else around me did.  Even when your son didn't seem to interested in your sacrifices.  Even when your employers didn't honor you. You didn't need a title - God had given you a mission. Joy. Self control.  Prayerful.

     That summer was amazing.  I began to realize my own stupidity and started to listen to your thoughts.  I was glad that I had abandoned my 8 year plan of getting my Master's of Art of Teaching and instead decided to pursue the unknown - trusting God.  I had watched Him meet you - maybe He would meet me too.  At the end of the summer I was a college graduate without a job - while my friends were heading into graduate school.  But that summer, we had seen the kingdom of God come near - together.  I think most other people missed it - but we were blessed by it.

    God used you as my quiet mentor. You were living a kingdom life and changed my view of what "success" is.  We parted when the program ended.  You were planning to head off to be with your daughter.  I moved into other non profit work.  I have no idea where you are now.

    That year with you changed so many things about me and my perspective.  You gently shared little snippets of truth and I probably missed most of them.  However, your patience in the face of my ignorance - that's what I remember.   Your willingness to serve the least of these - especially me in my haughtiness.  You threw a great birthday party for me with all the kids.  I was blessed. Humble. Patient.

    Thank you for sharing your life with me.  Showing His grace to me. Extending the kingdom.  Always having a song in your heart regardless of your circumstances.  For quietly forebearing an uppity and ungrateful college kid.  Over fifteen years later I still remember who you were in Him. You showed me the fruit of the Spirit in action that year.

Please forgive me.  Thanks is not nearly enough,



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