I have a follow-up report on some amazing results from that little craft project to share with you tonight.
Of the 45 valentines that went to residents that weekend, 20 were for people who are not regular attenders at our services; some even whose religious preference is not 'Christian.' I took extra care with those, to use Scriptures that could not be considered proselytizing. One of these went to Annie, a lady I visit with in the dementia unit every week just because I enjoy her immensely. She has quite the vocabulary of swear words and is generally suspicious of religious persons, but she and I share a love of animals and plants and raising boys and we've slowly built a friendship.
Last week, she greeted me enthusiastically with "Hello there! I've been thinking about you a lot this week, you being my chaplain and all."
Annie all of the sudden wanted to talk about God, and about an alarming incident she'd experienced, and we talked for more than an hour. This week she reported praying and telling God all about her issues. When they brought her dinner in, they kicked me out (she'd rather talk than eat) but she followed me to the door and said, sadly, "Don't you think we could have a little prayer before you go? I'd like to." This was new. I took her hand, and we had a sweet time of prayer while her dinner reposed, uneaten, on her tray.
Do you know what made the difference?
Her Valentine. I gave Annie Proverbs 17:17, just to be safe. But after her enthusiastic greeting last week she said, "I've looked at that paper you left me with the verse a whole bunch of times. And I started thinking 'Boy I hope the chaplain comes by because I'm thinking the Gospel would do me a pile of good right now.'"
And that opened up the floodgates. Until that time I'd only been hinting at Spiritual things with Annie. I knew if I came across as pushy that she'd slam the door and, as she is deteriorating, it might never open again. But I have probably been more reticent than I needed to be - I always am. But God had mercy on me and this time Annie took the lead and came right out and asked ME for the gospel and prayer.
After she told me that I realized that as I walk the halls and visit around, I've been seeing those Valentines everywhere. Stuck on cork boards and taped on walls and magneted to fridge doors. Mr. Lewis went along his hallway, stole half a dozen from his less cognizant neighbors and stuck them to his bathroom mirror with shaving cream, as a sort of wallpaper decoration.
I have a confession to make: I almost didn't do them this year. I'm busier now than I was last year, and it seemed kind of a silly way to use my time. Plus, I wasn't exactly sure how it went over last year. But I didn't feel easy in my mind about not doing it, so I ended up carrying on, and boy am I glad! I won't think twice about it next year. You just never know.