Saturday, January 25, 2014

Paying it Forward - a Reflection including football

Remember Frank? The anonymous donor in the Amazing Grace story who blessed hundreds of residents this Christmas?
Yeah. Me too.  In fact, remembering Frank has really challenged me to examine my attitudes and motives. For example, I love going to the nursing home on Christmas Eve to sing with the residents and watch them open the gifts. But Frank gave with no expectation of knowing how his gift went over.
I was thinking about this when I went to sit with Pastor Brown in dialysis the next Saturday night (December 21). He'd been at this dialysis facility for about six weeks, and 
for that entire time there had been a very interesting fellow there at the same time.  Because he quite thin he is always cold, so he comes each week for dialysis with a big, black, battered sub-zero mummy-style sleeping bag, which he climbs into when he's hooked up to the dialyzer.  Partway through, he reaches up and pulls the strings surrounding the opening, closing the bag over every bit of him except his nose and the arm where his lifeline is. 
Anyhow, he always appears cheerful, and the weekend after the above shopping spree he showed up in a Seahawks Santa Hat that had seen quite a great number of better days.  I smiled at him.  "I like your hat," I told him, and he grinned the most astonishingly huge grin.  "Thank you," he said. "The 'Hawks are going to win tomorrow."
"Are they?"
"You bet.  Those Giants are going DOWN."
We exchanged a couple more pleasantries and he left, and I thought no more about it.  I remembered him the next day when the Seahawks won, and wondered how he was celebrating.  The following Saturday on my way to dialysis, I stopped in the drug store to pick up a prescription.  As I walked back to the pharmacy, I passed the clearance section, and there was a stack of Seahawks T-shirts printed with photos of men I assume to be key players of some kind (Although I was in marching band and went to every home and away game for three years, I have no idea what's going on down there on the field). It was quite nice, and was on sale for $9 (normally $29).  I heard that Familiar Voice.  "You should get that Seahawks Fellow one of those. I bet he'd like it."
I was nonplussed, and proceeded to have this mental argument with the Voice. I'm quite stingy, you know, and I hold onto my money pretty tightly.  "But...I don't even know his name!"
Silence.  A sarcastic Silence, if that's possible.
"OK, so that's not really important, I guess.  But what will he think of a stranger giving him clothes."
"It's not clothes. It's a Seahawks shirt."
I guess God knows about the Seahawks.
"Well, but it's a 2X!  It would fall right off his body!"
More silence.  With an exasperated sigh I dug through the pile.  2X, XL, XL, 3X, 2X...and there on the bottom, M. I should have known it would be there.
So I got it.  But how to present it?  You can't just hand somebody a shirt and say "Merry Christmas, Person-Whose-Name-I-Don't-Know-and-have-only-said-six-words-to-in-my-life."  But there was a sort of dented gift box on the clearance rack as well.  It wasn't a shirt box, more of a mug box, but it was shiny and red, and when I poked the dent with my finger it popped out and became invisible. So I bought both and bunged the shirt into the box and off I went, completely forgetting about my prescription.
But when I got to Dialysis....the Seahawks Fellow wasn't there.  He'd been there with Pastor Brown every time for the last six weeks, but this time there was no sign of him. Now what?
After dithering for a while, I called one of the techs over.
"Excuse me...there's usually a man here at this time..." I described him, but the blank look was disappointing.  In desperation, I finished, "And he comes in with a big ol' sleeping bag and pulls the strings..." And I pantomimed pulling the strings around my face. The tech's face lit up.
"Oh! That's Herbert! Yeah, he came in early today."
It was the 21st. No more Saturdays before Christmas.  But the beauty part of dialysis is that I knew he'd be back.  So I followed the tech to his desk and showed him the box. "I got him a little Christmas present...if I left it here would someone please give it to him when he comes in on Monday?"
He grinned.  "Sure.  Just leave it right here and stick a note on it."
A note.
What to say?
The problem, God showed me, was that I was disappointed that he wasn't there so I could give it to him personally and see his reaction, and take credit for it.  But God was teaching me something, so I went back and talked it over with Pastor Brown.
He suggested that I tell him the story of how I came to be getting him the present.  So I did that, without identifying myself, and at the end of it, remembering Frank, I wrote, "Merry Christmas from the Lord." and clapped the lid on the box.  There. If he didn't like it, he could talk to the Lord about it.
The box was gone when I came the next Saturday, so he must have received it. And only that one tech had seen me leave it, so I'm sure nobody had any idea where it had come from.  And as I was leaving I realized I was just as tickled as if I had given it to him in person.
Every time the Seahawks played, I pictured Herbert in his new shirt, and prayed for him. 
And just as an interesting caveat, last week was the Big Important Game that decided whether the Seahawks would go to the Super Bowl.  And Herbert was there at dialysis on Saturday...wearing his Christmas shirt!  He showed it to me very proudly as he was leaving.
"We going to the BOWL, Baby!" he predicted, and he was right. 
And I pray for him, and Frank, and for other opportunities to pay it forward.

No comments:

Post a Comment