The Gift of Presence/Mother’s Day
She has these hideously old lawn chairs that are mauve and blue, and I swear I don’t know how they don’t have dry-rot. They have to be nearly as old as I am. You know the ones – the metal lawn chairs with vinyl straps. I used to be embarrassed to see her sitting out there morning and afternoon, like a permanent fixture, (and the retro chairs didn’t help the cause) but I began to realize she was onto something. Not only onto something our generation has missed entirely but onto something the Church in our day is trying to lay hold of once again, something I’ve been trying to grasp tangibly.
Love your neighbor is a command, and while I understand the implications of this command do not always literally mean neighbor, as in the people within walking distance from our front door, sometimes literal is refreshing.
We have lost the value of being available. We are too busy. It’s hard to love your neighbor from inside the house, from a closed fence, a closed garage. So, as I’ve watched my mother over the last several years in her vintage chair, doing the opposite, I’ve seen a different response from others as well. Openness breeds openness. The school kids know who she is – they yell to her from their cars on the way to school. If their parents are running late after school, they know where to stop and wait. The neighborhood dogs know who she is and stop by for crackers – no joke. The silliness of this makes me laugh, but when I hear the owner stop and share the troubles of life, I realize something more is going on. That something more is that neighbors see my mother as a safe, secure and consistent friend who will listen. Sitting with her in the afternoons, I have witnessed a neighbor grieving over a lost partner, a single mom worried over what to do with her troublesome kids, a friend struggling through divorce, among the many who are sick and just need a meal (which my mother regularly provides).
The troubles of this world are always present.
The problem is that we are not.
What I’ve noticed is that my mother gives the gift of presence.
Because she is available, people share their lives with her. They are not looking for answers. They just need someone to listen. Ultimately, she gives the gift of presence because of what Christ has done for her, and in turn, she gives Christ to her neighbors.
People often ask how it works for my parents to live down the street. I usually respond with something like Oh, it’s fine. We both mind our own business. But, if you really want to know the truth, loving my neighbor doesn’t really equate with minding my own business, and my parents are my neighbors, so…
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!