by Brittney Chan
This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
I wasn’t walking onto the dirt covered floors of a church in Nicaragua. I wasn’t slipping into the role of a puppeteer for a children’s program. I wasn’t serving hot food to homeless folks in Alaska. I wasn’t teaching an encouraging devotion to a group of women in the hills of Tennessee. I wasn’t testifying in a church service and hoping for a move of God.
This time, I was just knocking.
Knock, knock, knock. “Hey, my name’s Brittney! I’ll be working with you for Physical Therapy.” I cracked open the door to a room I’d been in dozens of times, working with a dozen different people. But this day was different. Penny G is someone I’ll never forget.
It seemed like we hit it off instantaneously, and working with her easily became the highlight of my day. She was an old soul, full of kindness. She genuinely loved people. You could hear it in the way she talked about her children. She was so happy to tell me about her experiences singing to elderly people in nursing homes, bingo nights with her best friends, or what her career-life was like. She told me of her tribe and how they were intentional to celebrate each other’s victories. She was a published poet and she beamed with pride when she shared one of her pieces with me. Penny G - the nickname I quickly gave to her - had a brilliant grin and eyes that lit up her dark, drab hospital room.
It was the second or third day of knowing Penny when she told me something that stuck. As I walked in, I noticed that she wasn’t as eager to jump out of bed and work with me. Her smile was tired. “What’s wrong, Penny G?”
The truth was that Penny was nearing the end of her life. Her diagnosis was unchangeable and if we were honest, the rest of her days would consist of being in and out of the hospital. The weight of that reality was heavy for Penny that day. We talked about how she preferred to spend the rest of the time she had on Earth. It most certainly was not by being in the hospital. She’d already had the typical kind of run-in with attitudes that accompany patient care. Penny reached up and grabbed my hand. She said, “Brittney, you’re my only bright spot.”
Ugh. I can’t even tell you about that without the tears falling. It’s not a gloating session or even a prideful moment for me. Because I know there have been plenty of “Penny’s” that I could have made a difference for, but didn’t. I deeply regret those missed opportunities.
I know this isn’t a devotion with groundbreaking theological insight. I’m sorry to disappoint you if that’s what you were looking for. (Come back next week. ;) ) But since my encounter with Penny, I’ve thought about the efforts I have spent to be active in ministry. I gave a few examples of that in the beginning of this article. But what good are any of those things if I fail to show the love of God to my “everyday” people? Just a bunch of sounding brass and tinkling cymbals! Ministry is not just found in the spotlight. In fact, it happens more in the moments you’ll never receive credit for. Ministry takes advantage of ordinary opportunities. These moments aren’t the ones you fast and pray about. They aren’t the ones that you study for. They don’t take place behind pulpits or well-polished sermons. These moments are found in how we talk to our co-workers or the immature teenager working behind a check-out line. They transpire when you choose to be intentional in the way you show up for your family and friends. Mama, it’s those values you teach, the diapers you change, the meals you make…
If God gives you a word, a sentence, or a chapter in someone else’s story; how will you choose to write it?
I stamped Penny’s words on a piece of metal that I’ve carried behind my work ID for almost two years. When I see it, I’m reminded of the time I did something right and I push myself to be aware of the chances I might have to do it again.
How bright is your life to this dark world we live in? Or are you only luminous to people who think and act as you do? One of the greatest ways Jesus reached the world was by loving the people in the world. He was a man that valued relationships…shouldn’t we?
Now, I’m not crazy, okay? I know that loving people intentionally is exhausting. You take a risk of being misused or mistreated. You’ll even find your cup empty over and over again. But this is where being full of the Spirit ensures that He refills our cup until it overflows. And living in that overflow allows us to pour out to the broken people in our lives. Let us be an extension of the grace of God to other people! Go be a bright spot to your Penny G.