We've had a couple of snowy days, much more severe winter weather than we are used to, even in January. It was enough that we had to cancel church. So I took my boys sledding and we were walking home. We walked past a home where a woman appeared to be trying to shovel thick, icy snow with a plastic dustpan.
We pass this house every day when we walk my 7-year-old to the school bus stop. They are our neighbors and I decided to play the hero. I sent my boys inside and I grabbed our snow-shovel and marched over to save the day.
The woman was very grateful. Her driveway is longer and wider than ours, is at a sharp angle and spends most of the day in the shade. The way the snow fell over the weekend, it was ice first, then wet snow on top of that, and finer, icier snow on top of that. It's a real bugaboo to shovel. Add in the angle of the driveway and the fact that none was melted, and I began to wonder if this type of thing was included in Hercules' labors.
I also noticed something. This Chinese woman, about my age, in her professional, high-heeled shoes was making good progress. And she didn't quit when Super-Pastor and his snow shovel showed up. She worked right alongside me and at just as quick a pace. Now, I will say that she had more than just that dust pant. She had a sort of chopping shovel, flat, and only about 3 inches wide. It's not good for moving mounds of dirt, but very effective at breaking ice. With persistence that a beaver would admire and speed that I couldn't seem to match, she chopped the ice, scooped it with the dust pan, and motored on.
So, I started in to working alongside, and I'd be hunched over the shovel, arms and hands aching. And, I'd feel pretty good about how much I had accomplished. Then, I'd look up and see that she had gotten just about as much done. The folks who wrote When Helping Hurts would be so pleased. They say you're not supposed to do 'for' people, but rather to do 'with' people.
As we worked, I learned that she and her husband are in application process for a Green Card. They are scientists and he is out of the state right now. I thought she was in the same field as one of our church members, so I asked if she knew the woman. I said our church member's name, and the woman, my shoveling partner, said, "Oh Yes, she's very famous." It was the second time I had heard this about my church member. When I see her on Sundays, she's just a quiet worshiper seeking a word from God. It's funny how in one context a person can be a big shot and in another completely anonymous and unassuming.
I don't know if the woman I was working with is a Christian. In our labors and brief conversation, I never sensed that opening where I felt it would be appropriate to begin a conversation about faith.
When we were done, she produced a bottle of wine. I tried to explain that I really don't drink very often and rarely wine. She insisted. I tried to explain that we don't keep wine in the house. She insisted. I decided that this gesture was very important to her, to show her gratitude. So I gratefully accepted. I wanted to honor her pride.
At home, at dinner with the family, my hands ached so much, it was difficult to grip a fork. I almost couldn't open the Texas Pete to pour in my soup. (I've really become a huge fan of the Texas Peter in recent years). The pain caused me to wonder what that woman must be feeling. Somehow, I think her body and her mind are used to extremely hard work and to getting the job done. And I thought, this lesson is good for all would-be-missionaries. Whether one is going overseas, on a day-mission project right in town, or helping a neighbor on one's one street, the missionary goes to serve and be served. In the name of Jesus, we give and receive love. I gave a woman some help she really did need. She gave me her story (a bit of it). She gave me a great lesson in diligent work. And she gave me a bottle of wine.
In the future as I see her in the neighborhood, I will know we share something. I wonder if the kingdom of God is like that - people coming alongside each other, working together, and realizing they share something.