It’s weird how people can impact your life in ways you never expected.
I work full-time at a church; I’m the central hub for everything that happens there (well, I’m supposed to be, anyway). Every Friday afternoon, without complaint and always with a smile and a sweet “hello!” my friend, Carol, comes in and helps me with the mundane task of folding bulletins, preparing mailings to the elderly folks who can no longer get out of their homes to worship, and makes sure the worship participants have their outlines. It’s a boring job. Really, it is. But, for years, without fail, she shows up. Every.Single.Week.
A week before Thanksgiving, Carol confided in me and told me money was tight and she wouldn’t be able to attend some upcoming events for the senior citizens at the church. The cost for attending these events was less than most of us spend on dinner at a restaurant, so my heart went out to her. I sent an email to the pastor and asked her if church could cover the cost of Carol’s attendance after explaining the situation. The pastor enthusiastically said, “Yes!” So, I wrote a small note of thanks to Carol, explaining that we, as church staff, wanted to thank her for volunteering every Friday and cover the cost of the events. I placed the note in her church mailbox and didn’t hear from her for a few days.
The next week, Thanksgiving week, Carol showed up unexpectedly on Tuesday. Things were busy and a little chaotic. I was chatting with another parishioner, but, thankfully, the pastor was in the lobby. Carol graciously thanked the pastor for the note and then waiting patiently for me to finish before entering the office. She slid a small card across the counter and started to cry. (If you know me at all, you know that tears make me VERY uncomfortable). Being a little busy and more than a little slow to pick up on the cues, I asked if she was okay. She replied, “I just wanted to say thank you.” I nodded and said, “of course. We appreciate you.” She lowered her head and walked out, as quickly and unassumingly as she walked in.
A little while after she left, I opened the card. I was floored. It was a thank you card – to us as staff – for appreciating her! We had thanked her for her devotion to a relatively thankless job and she turned it around and made it not about her. She literally gave us a thank you card for thanking her. This is Carol. This is who she is. Never has she complained about spending every Friday afternoon folding bulletins or putting up with my endless chatter about my children. Never has she said, “I don’t want to do this anymore. This doesn’t matter. Nobody notices what I do every week.” She shows up, she does her work, and she leaves.
However, she is not invisible. She is what we should all aspire to be – one who gives freely without ever expecting anything in return.